Citi’s decision to give back a salary subsidy provided by the Singapore government during Covid-19 is not just a show of community solidarity – it’s a further sign that banks in the Republic may not need to cut headcount costs during the pandemic.
Citi will return the money it has received under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), a S$20bn-plus initiative in which the government co-funds a percentage of gross monthly wages for each local employee (Singapore citizens and permanent residents) for nine months from April in four phrases.
“We feel it is the right time to signal that companies like Citi are here for the long term, and that the well-being of the larger community in Singapore matters to us,” Citi Asean head and Singapore CEO Amol Gupte said in an internal memo. Citi confirmed the contents of the memo, which was also reported in the Business Times today, to eFinancialCareers.
It is unclear how much JSS funding Citi is handing back. However, because about 80% of Citi’s 8,500-strong headcount are locals, the total could run into tens of millions, according to the Business Times.
Like many banks, Citi has already pledged not to cut jobs globally during Covid-19, but this new announcement is potentially good news for Singaporean employees who may be still concerned about their long-term job stability. “By returning this subsidy, Citi appears to be saying that it doesn’t need any encouragement or help in retaining its Singapore workforce,” says a senior Singapore-based banker.
The funding return also sends the right signals to the wider public as presumably the money will now be used to support workers at other firms. Gupte said in the memo that giving back the JSS money means that individuals, families and companies who have a “far greater need” for assistance can benefit from it.
Other firms in Singapore have also made corporate decisions with community spirit in mind since the start of the pandemic. Senior management at Grab took a pay cut in March to “show solidarity” with their “driver, delivery and merchant partners”. Temasek announced in February that senior management are taking a partial cut to their bonuses, and can choose to donate up to 5% of their base salaries to the firm’s staff volunteer initiative, with dollar-for-dollar matching.
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