Sombre bonus outlook for bank staff

Sombre bonus outlook for bank staff

SINGAPORE - Bank staffers here should be happy if their 2012 bonus turns out similar to last year's, while salary adjustments, if any, are unlikely to outpace this year's 4 per cent-plus inflation, say consultants.

This could mean zero bonuses - which was the case for some last year - to one month-plus bonuses for general, non-revenue-generating employees. For sales or frontline staff, those who have met targets could get as much as six months. Of course, there are always the outliers, but consultants say the overall mood is pretty conservative.

"We're in an environment where people are very conservative about pay rises," said Pan Zaixian, general manager at Kerry Consulting.

Singapore's low 1.9 per cent unemployment rate may be the envy of many but the banks here are not immune to the global cost-cutting trend in the industry. Citigroup last week said it would axe 11,000 jobs worldwide and Bloomberg data showed that financial services firms have announced more than 300,000 job cuts globally since the start of 2011.

Senior managers are unlikely to get any pay rise while for more junior staff, banks use local inflation as a guide to salary adjustment, said Mr Zaixian.

"Now, with that in mind and from what we know about the market at ground level, it is likely that adjustment can be below local inflation," said Mr Zaixian.

Inflation this year is tipped to be slightly above 4.5 per cent.

"A lot of it will depend on the performance levels of these individuals. It is unlikely that even at the junior levels that inflation-level adjustments will be a given," said Paul Endacott, managing director at Ambition Group.

"Bonuses are going to be meagre in general," said Mr Zaixian. But he noted that this is a distraction from the fact that the base pay at investment banks has been raised significantly since 2010.

"For non-front-office roles at the general level, bonus is expected to be closer to one-plus month instead of four months during the better years," he said.

"For senior management and for general front- office roles, where in good years they can expect 10- plus months bonus, this will no longer be commonplace," he said.

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