More than 400 retrenched in ANZ S’pore over past year

More than 400 retrenched in ANZ S’pore over past year
Reuters file photo
Published: 4:00 AM, September 26, 2016
Updated: 8:35 AM, September 26, 2016

SINGAPORE — The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) has slashed hundreds of jobs in Singapore over the past year as it restructures its businesses across Asia and dials back its regional expansion strategy to cut costs and exit low-margin operations.

The Melbourne-based lender, TODAY understands, has pruned its Singapore staff strength by around 20 per cent, axing more than 400 jobs in a cost-cutting exercise that began last year. The process is likely to be completed by the bank’s financial year-end on Sept 30, a bank employee told TODAY. According to its website, ANZ has about 2,200 employees in Singapore.

“The jobs cuts are across operations in Singapore. By the bank’s financial year-end this month, the staff strength would be reduced by 20 per cent. The response to the redundancy package has actually been good,” the bank employee told TODAY on condition of anonymity. The compensation package, TODAY understands, is a month’s salary for each year of employment at the bank.

In response to queries from TODAY, Mr David Green, CEO for Singapore and head of South-East Asia and India at ANZ, did not reveal the specific number of employees retrenched in the city-state. He said: “ANZ in Singapore has been managing staff numbers in line with customer needs, market conditions and our sharpened strategic focus … We have and will continue to have a significant number of staff in Singapore supporting our local, regional and global activities.”

A spokesperson at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told TODAY: “MOM is aware of the current retrenchment exercise (at ANZ Singapore) and the Workforce Development Agency has contacted the company to provide employment facilitation support for the affected employees.” MOM, the spokesperson added, has not received any complaints from the affected employees.

“The top management kept the exact number of jobs to be cut undisclosed. The job cuts were done in small batches. So it never came across as a big number at any one point in time. It was well managed and peacefully done,” said a former ANZ Singapore employee, who had negotiated an exit package and did not want to be named. “Given the current economic scenario that has led to almost all international banks cutting corners and firing people, redundancy is not an easy situation to be in.”

Earlier this year, ANZ closed its “emerging corporate” business, which lends to small and medium-sized enterprises in five Asian economies, including Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Taiwan, as it downsized its presence in the region. Burdened by bad debt and restructuring costs, ANZ’s profit slumped 23 per cent year-on-year to A$4.3 billion (S$4.5 billion) in the nine months ended June 30. Last month, Moody’s Investor Services revised its ratings outlook for ANZ from stable to negative, citing a more challenging operating environment for the remainder of 2016 and beyond.

“Be it locals or foreigners, many people have left ANZ this year and the uncertainty continues. The difficult part it is that even others, particularly the foreign banks, are also on retrenchment mode or have imposed a freeze on hiring. So, you are only able to move to another job with a pay cut,” said an ANZ Singapore employee on condition of anonymity.

Mr Patrick Tay, Member of Parliament, West Coast GRC, and alignment director Professionals, Managers and Executives (PME) at the National Trades Union Congress, noted a surge in the number of PMEs reporting to the Financial Industry Career Advisory Centre. The agency provides guidance to those looking to move to new jobs within the industry.

“The financial industry is undergoing recalibration, reorganisation and is re-strategising amid global economic uncertainties and digital disruption,” he said. “The banks are cutting down on product lines and regional offices. There are industry-wide repercussions including job cuts. In this ongoing churn, the majority of people affected will be the PMEs as job roles continue to change with e-banking and reduction in human touch points in the overall banking space.”