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No redundancy fear at SCB this year, despite those 800 disappearing jobs

There are 800 fewer Standard Chartered employees globally now than there were at the end of 2010. But Singapore's share of the headcount fall has come mainly from natural attrition - redundancies have been rare.

"The important thing to note here is that the bank is not going all out to replace those who have left, so hence the fall. Hiring managers are finding it difficult to get approval for even replacement headcount, especially at mid/senior levels," comments a recruiter in Singapore who asked not to be named.

The bank allowed staff numbers - which currently stand at about 84,200 - to fall in Q1 because last year's hiring spree had helped to increase costs by 13 per cent, outpacing a 6 per cent income rise. Not only did SCB recruit plenty of people (about 7,000) in 2010, but in Asia competition for talent drove up compensation expenses.

Another anonymous Singapore-based recruiter says he has not seen layoffs so far this year. "Not on any scale anyway. This is a good message to send to the market. 'Yes, we may have got a bit carried away with our spending last year, but we are not making the staff pay for it'."

He adds: "SCB spent as much or more than others in 2010 on hiring, however, it has not had to make redundancies, unlike ANZ and some other competitors who have been cutting staff."

A firm the size of Standard Chartered can decrease costs significantly purely through hiring restrictions, he adds. "If the bank is running at 5 per cent annual attrition - a fair assumption for SCB - by simply not replacing non-urgent headcount, it can reduce costs within a very short amount of time."

Carry on (slowly) hiring

Despite the fall in employee numbers in the first quarter, the firm expects global headcount to be slightly higher at the end of this year than it was last December. "We will continue to hire, and overall we still expect an incremental increase in staff numbers for the group of some 1,000 in 2011," says a spokesperson for the bank in Singapore.

Steady, unspectacular growth is the order of the day in Singapore, according to those with knowledge of the bank's hiring plans. Our first recruiter comments: "There could be a second-half scramble, but as of now the main mood is to consolidate talent hired last year and bring them up to speed. Business has been good so there is no real desperation to hire more."

Headhunter two agrees: "If the bank does commit to hiring another 1,000 people by year-end, it still has plenty of time to get this done. It's still considered an employer of choice in Singapore and does not struggle to attract good people. "

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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