UOB’s headcount has fallen by more than those of its rivals DBS and OCBC during the pandemic. Singapore’s third largest bank employed 24,571 people as at end-June, from 26,495 a year previously, a decrease of 1,924 (7%).
By contrast, OCBC’s workforce inched down by just 36 over the same period. DBS’s fell by 342, excluding staff from its acquisition of India’s Lakshmi Vilas Bank.
Unlike its local competitors, UOB announced a partial hiring freeze last year. Dean Tong, head of group human resources, said in September 2020 that UOB would take a “disciplined and selective approach to any new headcount increases” and that “new appointments will be approved at the most senior levels of the bank”.
Tong said in March that the freeze was designed to “protect jobs”. “So we have not taken out anyone through retrenchment because of the Covid-19 situation,” he added. This suggests that the drop in UOB’s staffing numbers was largely caused by the bank not hiring to replace people who left of their own accord.
UOB lifted its recruitment restrictions in March and said at the time that it expects to hire between 1,500 and 2,000 people in Singapore this year, in part to account for attrition and also to boost specific teams, such as in technology and wealth management.
UOB announced a first half net profit of S$2bn, up 29% year-on-year, partly because of lower allowances.
Profit before tax was 4% higher at S$1.35bn in group wholesale banking, where there was “record investment banking revenue and strong growth in loans/trade volume”. Profit was up 4% in group retail banking. Global markets had a tougher H1 than UOB’s other two divisions. Profit declined by 28% to S$224m compared to H1 2020, which benefited from strong securities sales.
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