OCBC CEO Samuel Tsien donates $650,600; 2019 pay rises 3.5% to $11.1m

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – OCBC chief executive officer Samuel Tsien saw his total pay rise 3.5 per cent to $11.1 million in 2019, the bank’s latest annual report on Tuesday (April 14) showed. Mr Tsien’s total pay in 2019 is up from $10.7 million a year ago, or at an absolute difference of about $379,557.

Separately on Tuesday, OCBC said Mr Tsien has contributed more than half ($650,600) of his 2019 base salary of $1.2 million to support community and environmental causes under the #OCBCCares Programme. His donation helped fund 21 projects benefiting needy families, the elderly and people with special needs, said the lender.  Mr Tsien did not request the 2.5 times of tax deduction benefits for his donations, OCBC added.

DBS Group said last month that its chief executive Piyush Gupta had donated $500,000 to the Community Chest. The announcement came separately from the bank’s annual report released the same day that showed Mr Gupta had his 2019 pay rise about 2 per cent to $12.13 million.

Mr Gupta’s remuneration for 2019 comprised a cash bonus of $4.59 million and shares worth $6.27 million, and came on top of a base salary of $1.2 million. His base salary was unchanged from the previous year.

United Overseas Bank chief executive Wee Ee Cheong recorded a 1.8 per cent increase in 2019 total salary to $10.75 million. His base salary was unchanged at $1.2 million, with the remaining amount captured in bonuses. As was the case in 2018, 60 per cent of the variable pay due to Mr Wee will be deferred and will vest over three years. Of the deferred variable pay, 40 per cent would be issued in deferred cash. The remaining 60 per cent would be in the form of share-linked units.

Mr Tsien  contributed to the OCBC NTUC First Campus Bridging programme, which ensured that from 2020 to 2025, more than 2,500 children from needy families can enjoy two years of free pre-school education. In support of OCBC’s climate action focus, he was also the main contributor to the bank’s five-year habitat enhancement project, in which critically endangered trees are planted on Coney Island. Besides supporting forestation, these trees can help to store carbon dioxide.

His remuneration for 2019 comprised a cash bonus of $5.84 million, deferred shares worth $3.89 million and other benefits of $102,157, and came on top of the base salary of $1.2 million. The base salary was largely flat from the previous year. 

The value of remuneration shares was estimated based on OCBC’s closing price of $8.36 per share on March 20. 

In OCBC’s annual report, Mr Tsien said the bank saw consumer confidence and sentiments dwindle, and companies delay their investment and expansion plans, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

While it is expected that the pandemic will be contained later in the year, he noted that the impact on consumer sentiments and investment confidence will last longer.

“Several of the geopolitical and sociopolitical developments will also continue to pose new challenges for us as they drag on into this year, and will take some time before normalcy can be restored,” said Mr Tsien. 

That being said, OCBC’s regional capital and client franchise, as well its “strong foundations in people”, will put the bank in a good position to capitalise on the market recovery, he added. 

“I am hopeful the virus will be contained later in the year, and gradual recovery of investment spending and consumer sentiments will commence soon thereafter, starting with China. The recovery will be slow in the beginning but will accelerate as it continues,” said Mr Tsien.

On digital banking in Singapore, Mr Tsien noted that competition has always been “intense” for the banking industry, and sees the new digital entrants as “partners and peers” to make financial services more complete for the community.

While he acknowledged that digital banks can be more cost-efficient than the incumbents with the use of technology, their breadth of coverage will ultimately be narrower.

“A digital bank can serve segments which may currently be underserved. Outside of Singapore, they may even play a bigger role,” he said.

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