UOB chief sees pay cut as bonus rises for DBS head

It was a rather contrasting year for two local bank head honchos.

United Overseas Bank CEO Wee Ee Cheong took a bonus cut in 2015 as the bank faced slowing growth amid market headwinds.

By contrast, DBS Group chief executive Piyush Gupta got a hefty pay rise, taking home the largest sum among the local banks' heads.

Both banks released their annual reports yesterday.

Mr Wee's total pay last year was $9.22 million, down from $10.22 million in 2014, when he was the highest paid chief of the local banks.

The drop came from a $1 million cut to his bonus, to $8 million, while his base salary was unchanged at $1.2 million.

Last year, UOB's net profit slid 1.2 per cent to $3.21 billion compared with 2014, while non-performing loans ratio rose to 1.4 per cent from 2014's 1.2 per cent.

Slowing growth in China and plunging oil prices have hit the banking industry while putting pressure on credit quality as businesses struggled. These factors will persist this year, Mr Wee said in his statement to shareholders.

"In the near term, market turbulence reflects nervousness about China's slowdown and depressed oil prices and their impact on wider economy. We expect financial market volatility to continue this year."

He added: "We believe that our disciplined approach of growth with stability and maintaining a strong balance sheet will ensure our resilience and enable us to support customers through cycles."

At DBS, Mr Gupta received $10.94 million in total remuneration last year, up 8.1 per cent from 2014.

OCBC's annual report, released earlier this week, showed that CEO Samuel Tsien received $10.49 million in remuneration in 2015, up 6.1 per cent year on year.

Mr Gupta's pay packet included a base salary of $1.2 million - unchanged from 2014 - and a cash bonus of $4.12 million.

The reward came as he guided DBS to a stellar showing in 2015 despite challenging market conditions, with net profit surging 12 per cent to $4.32 billion, or a record high of $4.45 billion after including a one-off gain.

In his message to shareholders, Mr Gupta, who took up his position in 2009, highlighted the bank's transformation into a more diversified financial institution.

"The texture of our franchise has changed considerably. Wealth management and SME banking contributed 27 per cent of group income from 22 per cent in 2010.

Income from transaction services has doubled, while customer activities contributed half of treasury income from 36 per cent in 2010."

But he cautioned that "2016 will not be easy. Global growth is likely to be slower, and we will have to stay focused and nimble".

UOB shares jumped 55 cents or 2.97 per cent to close at $19.05 yesterday, while OCBC shares added 13 cents or 1.47 per cent to $8.95.

This article was first published on March 31, 2016.
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