In Focus
RETAIL BANKING | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Singapore banks slash job perks for expats

Blame it on supply and demand as more senior bankers now want to have Asia experience on their CV.

According to a release, higher demand from UK and US banking and hedge fund staff for Singapore postings has allowed employers in the region to axe lucrative expat perks says Astbury Marsden, a leading financial services recruitment firm.

Mark O’Reilly, Managing Director of Astbury Marsden Asia Pacific, says: “Demand for jobs in Singapore has now started to outstrip supply as Asia tops the wish list as international location of choice for an increasing number of bankers.”

“An absence of political pressure on bankers’ bonuses, an increasingly attractive tax regime and the distance from the Eurozone crisis, are making a banking career in Singapore increasingly attractive.”

“This is in turn is allowing banks to trim down on all those added benefits and perks that expats used to get and still value. Banks were previously obliged to offer all kinds of enticements to prise the high fliers from New York and London, but this is certainly no longer the case.”

Astbury Marsden says that the standard expat package for Singapore has been reduced to:

One month’s accommodation in a serviced apartment at the start of the employment contract
One free flight home a year for the employee and possibly their family
Private medical care for the employee and their family
Allowance to cover shipping and container costs

Before 2008 expat packages would frequently include:

Housing allowance
Car allowance
Fees for country clubs and other private membership clubs
Help with finding a job for a spouse
Private school education allowance which often included the purchase of debentures needed to secure priority access to waiting lists for some private schools
Two or three free flights home per year for the employee and their family

Astbury Marsden adds that for the most senior staff pre-2008 packages could also include the use of a driver, cook and maid.

Says Mark O’Reilly: “It is supply and demand – more senior bankers now want to have Asia experience on their CV.”

“The tax benefit of working in Singapore has become more profound; as tax rates increase in Europe, employers have been able to argue that the other perks are no longer needed. There has also been a conscientious effort to equalise the benefits that local and expat workers get.”

Mark O’Reilly says: “The credit crunch in 2008 really accelerated the reduction in expat benefits. When London and New York were booming there was far less interest from Wall Street and City of London bankers to move to Asia.”

Mark O’Reilly says that housing allowance and help with private school fees are the most sorely missed benefits amongst expat workers.

Explains Mark O’Reilly: “Demand for private schooling for expat children in Singapore has soared over the last few years and that has had the obvious impact on school fees and availability of places”.”

Mark O’Reilly concludes: “Despite the scaled back benefit packages, we are not expecting the flow of bankers to Asia to diminish – most don’t see this as a short term move. These cities are no longer outposts designed solely to service clients in the region – multi-national banks and hedge funds are establishing their Asia offices as global centres of excellence.”

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