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Ex-banker sues UOB but UK courts find no proof he was discriminated for ‘not being Asian’

SINGAPORE — A former senior officer with the United Overseas Bank (UOB), who accused the bank of denying him a new job because he is not Asian, has lost a racial discrimination claim at a London employment tribunal.

A UOB spokesperson in Singapore said the bank is pleased that a London tribunal has affirmed that the bank’s actions did not constitute racial discrimination against Mr Daniel Smith.

A UOB spokesperson in Singapore said the bank is pleased that a London tribunal has affirmed that the bank’s actions did not constitute racial discrimination against Mr Daniel Smith.

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SINGAPORE — A former senior officer with the United Overseas Bank (UOB) who accused the bank of denying him a new job because he is not Asian has lost a racial discrimination claim at a London employment tribunal.

However, the judge found that his dismissal was unfair and he could be awarded up to 84,000 pounds (S$149,200), Bloomberg reported after the court ruling on March 19.

Mr Daniel Smith, 45, had worked at the London branch of the Singapore bank for 23 years.

The bulk of his work at the bank’s treasury business involved clearing sterling for all the branches worldwide.

In August 2016, Mr Smith was informed that the London branch would stop acting as the clearing agent.

He had a series of meetings with management in what Mr Smith called a “restructuring” exercise to discuss taking up new roles in a “middle office” job.

Mr Smith rejected the offer and later asked to take up a vacancy in a finance and administrative department.

On Dec 9, 2016, he met the London branch manager Andy Cheah, who informed Mr Smith that a candidate who was an Asian woman from South-east Asia was a better “fit” for that vacancy.

After that, the notes of the meeting between him and the manager were changed when Mr Smith submitted grievances that he was denied the job because of race discrimination.

Mr Smith was eventually let go in June 2017 on grounds of “redundancy”.

In court documents seen by TODAY, Judge Joanna Wade described the case as a “murky factual situation”.

“We can understand why (Mr Smith) believed that he had been discriminated against,” the judge ruled. “However, he is mistaken.”

The reason the other candidate was given the job was that the job was never planned to be given to him and she was better experienced, the judge said.

Furthermore, Mr Smith had refused an earlier offer for a “middle office” role which better suited his “technical competence and practical experience”.

Regardless, UOB still had a duty to look for suitable alternatives for Mr Smith in the workplace.

Judge Wade said: “We conclude that there was a chance that the claimant would have remained in employment had the procedure been fair.”

Moreover, she found that the term “UOB fit”, which the bank uses in its employment criteria, was “ill-advised”.

To Mr Smith, “UOB fit” meant “Asian”.

To the London branch’s operations manager Quek Chee Peng, it meant the “South-east Asian way of doing things” — which was valuing hard work and putting the customer first.

The court found that UOB also should not have changed the minutes of the Dec 9 meeting in 2016, when Mr Smith had raised concerns about what was said, because that further “exacerbated his suspicions”.

Mr Smith, who had worked at the bank since 1993 when he was 19, told TODAY he was “disappointed that the discrimination (claim) was unsuccessful”, but called the case a “half victory”.

A UOB spokesperson in Singapore said that the bank is “pleased that the tribunal has affirmed that the bank’s actions did not constitute racial discrimination”.

The spokesperson, however, noted the ruling of unfair dismissal and said that “the bank offered the complainant an alternative job posting but unfortunately he had rejected the offer”.

“Nevertheless, we respect the decision made.”

Related topics

job bank banker lawsuit sue discrimination race Asian South-east Asian UOB United Overseas Bank Daniel Smith London Officer judge tribunal unfair dismissal employment Andy Cheah

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