Mixed emotions at Standard Chartered as Singapore staff digest bonus cuts

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Mixed emotions at Standard Chartered as Singapore staff digest bonus cuts

Front-office staff at Standard Chartered in Singapore have received details of their bonuses over the past few days following the firm’s announcement late last month that it is cutting its global pool.

Rank-and-file employees in Singapore confirm that their bonuses have declined. Some of them are still content with the size of their payments, while others aren’t so happy.

Managing directors took a 34% year-on-year hit to their bonuses, according to Stan Chart’s 2020 financial results. Average bonuses paid to people below MD were cut by 27% globally. The bank declined to comment on its Singapore bonuses.

A mid-level capital markets banker in Singapore, who received news of his bonus late last week, says it was 25% down on the previous year.

A financial markets analyst says hers was 18% lower than 12 months ago, and 10% lower than her “target bonus amount”. “Our bonus is tied to a target amount disclosed and put into our bonus letter every year, where the final amount depends on the business performance multiplier applied to it at the end of the financial year. For 2020, this performance multiplier was <1,” she explains, adding that she received no shares and that bonuses in her team are further adjusted up or down based on individual performance.

The bonus cuts at Standard Chartered follow a 57% year-on-year plunge in 2020 profits to $3.71bn. However, operating income in financial markets was up 18% as SCB, like most of its competitors, benefited from market volatility.

A Stan Chart trader, whose bonus has fallen, says “cross subsidising losses is not welcome”, referring to people in high-performing teams being affected by the overall decrease in the bank’s bonus pool. Standard Chartered said last month that bonuses were “differentiated” in its financial markets business to reward “strong performers” working there, but not everyone in markets appears to have benefited from this policy. “My motivation to make a career move post-bonus is high,” says the trader.

The other employees we spoke with disagree. “It’s understandable for high-performing teams to partially subsidise other teams given the current climate. These things come in cycles, so it’s fine to help even out the ups and downs,” says the banker, who is not looking for a new job in the wake of his bonus cut. “I expected it, so it didn’t come as a surprise. I also saw a decent bump in my fixed comp, so that helped offset the lower bonus. I’ve heard my bonus is generally in line with the industry,” he adds.

The financial markets analyst also says she expected her bonus to fall and will be staying put at Stan Chart. “I feel my bonus is fair in the current environment. It’s still more than what I would have received at my previous bank in normal conditions, so I think it’s ok,” she adds.

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