OCBC Group CEO Helen Wong

SINGAPORE: OCBC Group CEO Helen Wong received S$12.1 million for FY2023 ended Dec 31, 2023, The Edge Singapore reports. Her earnings surged in 2023, echoing the bank’s record-breaking full-year profits, as disclosed in its annual report on April 5.

Ms Wong’s annual remuneration marking an 8% uptick from her S$11.2 million earnings in 2022. This boost in pay surpasses that of DBS’s CEO, Mr Piyush Gupta, who received S$11.2 million in 2023, reflecting a 27% plunge from his S$15.4 million income in 2022.

The Straits Times reports that the variable compensation for Mr Gupta and other members of DBS’s management panel in 2023 was scaled back, reflecting accountability for a string of digital disruptions in the bank’s services during the year. Meanwhile, UOB’s Mr Wee Ee Cheong clinched the title of the highest-paid local bank chief, raking in $15.9 million, marking a 12% rise from his S$14.2 million earnings in 2022.

Ms Wong’s annual pay packet consists of a base salary of S$1.44 million, which remained unchanged from 2022. She also received a bonus of S$6.35 million, deferred shares worth S$4.24 million, and other perks like club and car benefits valued at S$69,900, as per the bank’s annual report.

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However, the increase in her pay was relatively modest compared to the staggering 47% salary leap she enjoyed in 2022, when her earnings soared from S$7.6 million to S$11.2 million. Ms Wong took the helm as group CEO on April 15, 2021.

Singapore banks are poised to witness a moderation in profit margins in 2024 due to the waning tailwinds from high interest rates and impending rate cuts by the US Federal Reserve.

OCBC’s full-year earnings increased by 27% to S$7.02 billion in 2023, driven by expanded margins across its key markets in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Greater China amid elevated interest rates. This marks the first time the bank’s profits have crossed the S$7 billion threshold.

In the annual report, Ms Wong highlighted a concentration of trade, investment, and wealth flows in Asia, with Asean-Greater China flows gaining traction amid geopolitical tensions and the emergence of a multipolar world.

Asean has overtaken the European Union as China’s largest trading partner since 2020, highlighting the significance of Asian economic dynamics. The surge in Asian wealth is anticipated to persist, with personal financial assets in the Asia-Pacific forecasted to grow at an average rate of about 8% annually over the next five years, surpassing the global average of 5%.

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Ms Wong emphasised the prominence of wealth flow within Asia, saying, “As an increasing number of high-net-worth individuals seek to diversify their assets beyond their countries of residence. Key financial hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong are best placed to benefit from this trend.”

OCBC, with Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia as its core markets in Asean, boasts over 60 offices and branches in Greater China, encompassing mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

The bank announced its acquisition of Indonesia’s Bank Commonwealth in the fourth quarter of 2023, which is expected to strengthen its network with over one million retail and small and medium-sized enterprise customers. Additionally, it will acquire Malaysia’s AmMetLife Insurance and AmMetLife Takaful under its insurance arm, Great Eastern.

In July, OCBC set a new target to achieve S$3 billion in incremental revenue by 2025, building upon its existing growth trajectory. Ms Wong affirmed the bank’s progress towards this goal and pledged intensified efforts in 2024 and 2025.

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OCBC surpassed S$50 billion in sustainable financing commitments in September, ahead of its 2025 target, recording over 100 new sustainable finance transactions amounting to a total of S$14 billion in 2023. /TISG

Read also: DBS CEO Piyush Gupta’s salary down 27% at S$11.2M after pay cut