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FINANCIAL SERVICES | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Singapore
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Singapore's 20 largest commercial banks 2014

DBS replaces UOB in second place, Citibank remains first

Citibank Singapore remains Singapore’s largest commercial full bank in the city, based on the number of employees at 10,000, according to Singapore Business Review’s second annual survey. It is again followed by two local banks, but with reshuffled positions. DBS Bank replaces UOB in second place after adding 1,000 more to its 2013 staff strength of 7,800. UOB, on the other hand, only added 150 to its last year’s total of 7,850.

Theresa Phua, Singapore Head of Human Resources at DBS Bank, explains that the bank has had a number of long-standing programmes in place, including the Management Associate Programme and Technology & Operations Graduate Programme. “To further strengthen our talent pool, in 2013, we launched three new talent development programmes designed to groom leaders in different parts of the bank such as consumer banking and SME banking. In 2013, we increased the number of new graduates recruited through these programmes,” says Phua.

Phua also adds that in 2013, DBS executed an initiative to enable its customers to trade shares without the need to maintain separate accounts with the bank and its broking subsidiary, DBS Vickers. “[The move] is in line with our ambition to become a leading wealth player in the region. To support the creation of this ‘one-stop shop,’ with our customers able to access banking and brokerage products under one roof, a number of employees from DBS Vickers moved to the bank.”

The other local bank, OCBC, settles in fifth place with just around 6,000 staff. The fourth spot goes to foreign bank Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) of which total employment grew to 7,400 from 7000. Altogether, the top five comprise more than 75% of the 53,144 total employment of the 20 largest banks in the list.

Competitive pressure

Apart from competition in attracting local talent, experts note that local banks may face tougher competition in deposits from foreign banks with new regulatory changes in place.

A framework for domestic systemically important banks (D-SIBs) is currently in the works. According to Maybank Kim Eng analyst Ng Wee Siang, the immediate implication is foreign banks with a large retail presence in Singapore will have to locally incorporate their retail units. On a larger scale, the change could lead to greater competition from foreign banks in search of higher returns.

Ng notes that the retail operations of both HSBC, ranked 6th, and Maybank in 8th place, may be required to be locally incorporated with a minimum of SGD1.5 billion in paid-up capital. While this may level the playing field, the analyst cautions that foreign banks may go up the risk curve in search of higher returns commensurate with higher capital requirements.

Fitch Ratings also believes that the new requirements are not expected to pose major challenges for the local banks, but it expects deposit competition to heat up. 

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