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Singapore banks pledge to avoid staff cuts despite virus impact

OCBC Bank in Singapore, October 8, 2019. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Feline Lim)

By Chanyaporn Chanjaroen

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s three large banks have joined some global peers in pledging to avoid staff cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do not plan to have retrenchment exercise arising from this outbreak,” Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. Chief Executive Officer Samuel Tsien said in a recent memo to employees. His counterparts at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. and United Overseas Bank Ltd., Piyush Gupta and Wee Ee Cheong, issued similar statements on Wednesday saying they don’t envisage the need for cutbacks.

The three banks employ more than 85,000 people in total.

Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. are among the global banks which have pledged to preserve jobs despite the worst economic downturn in years, as the pandemic cripples tourism, manufacturing and services. The Singapore government has said the economy may contract by as much as 4% this year.

Despite the expected hit to the bank’s revenue growth, Singapore-based OCBC has “strong levels of capital, funding and liquidity to guide us through these uncertain times,” Tsien wrote. An OCBC spokeswoman confirmed the contents of the memo, which was distributed to employees on March 24.

Gupta, in an emailed response to questions from Bloomberg News, also said his bank’s liquidity and capital position is strong. UOB’s Wee said his bank does not “plan to conduct retrenchment exercises at this point in time as a result of Covid-19.”

OCBC’s total headcount stood at 30,492 as of the end of December, and the bank has operations across Southeast Asia, Greater China, Europe and the U.S. The number of staff has risen 41% in the past 10 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

DBS, the region’s largest lender by assets, employed 28,419 people as of the end of 2019, while UOB had total headcount of 26,872.


© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.