Regional banks get creative with Singapore and Hong Kong salary packages

By Robert Half on 26 April 2016

Financial institutions in the two cities are moving beyond mere dollars to retain top talent as Singapore and Hong Kong's salary outlook remains rosy.

According to the Robert Half Salary Guide, the majority of firms in both Singapore and Hong Kong plan to grow their financial services teams into 2016. However, nearly all business leaders (97% in Hong Kong and 96% in Singapore) say it has become increasingly challenging to recruit top professionals.

As a result, both Singapore and Hong Kong's salary outlook remains positive for candidates. With 6 out of 10 financial services firms in Singapore looking to increase salaries this year, while 7 out of 10 of their Hong Kong counterparts plan to do the same.

Some banks are going beyond topping up wage offers and mega bonuses by offering other perks to motivate and retain key talent.

Family-friendly policies

Maternity/paternity leave is usually the first HR policy to be revised.

In a recent internal memo, HSBC Bank in Hong Kong announced that new parents will enjoy longer parental leave starting from May 2016. Whilst new fathers can enjoy an additional week of paternity leave on top of the current one-week leave.

Mothers are also better looked after, with maternity entitlement stretching to 14 weeks, an extra two weeks from current policy. This policy extends to employees who are planning to adopt a child. To encourage mothers to return to work, HSBC also introduced a flexible return policy with reduced working hours.

Career development

Career development is an increasingly important talent retention tool. The millennial generation or Generation Y (those born between 1980 to 2000) are starting to join the workforce and want the career conversation to go beyond just dollars and cents. Research has shown that millennials are even willing to invest in their own skills development if their company is not willing to step up.

DBS Bank in Singapore are taking the lead in this area, setting up the DBS Academy which now conducts over 10,000 training sessions each year on topics ranging from scenario-based leadership to digital master classes. According to the bank, the number of training days undertaken has “increased by 30% to 133,000 days [in 2015] compared to 102,000 in 2013, [well] above industry standards”.

The bank was also the first in Singapore to incorporate hackathons in its talent development programme, where employees create prototypes to solve business challenges along with start-ups.

According to a DBS spokesperson: “Employees are given opportunities to attend innovation related events such as joining the hackathon and to learn more about entrepreneurship.”

Commenting on the first hackathon with 150 employees and start-ups in April last year, David Gledhill, head of group technology and operations in DBS said, “…if we wish to remain relevant to our customers, our employees must embrace a culture of innovation and be entrepreneurs. At events such as the DBS MegaHackathon, our employees and start-ups can benefit from each other’s knowledge and expertise, as well as have a cultural exchange.”

United Overseas Bank (UOB) in Singapore has also launched the industry’s first tertiary education programme for small business bankers. Partnering with Singapore Management University, the course combines classroom-based study with practical skills training.

Other cash benefits

Cash benefits can also come in other forms than annual bonuses.

UOB chose to honour its employees during the 80th anniversary celebrations last year. The bank gave all 25,000 employees in Singapore two-day special leave and a S$100 limited edition NETS Flashpay card that may be used at retail outlets and the public transport system.

Bank of East Asia in Hong Kong offers scholarships worth HK$30,000 each to employees’ children as part of its social responsibility programme.

Education has always been a key focus of BEA’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, and I am delighted to present scholarships to children of the Bank’s staff members for a second year in the BEA Scholarship program.

Dr David K.P. Li, Chairman and Chief Executive, BEA.

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