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DBS, Singapore’s largest bank, reduces executive pay following service disruptions

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DBS Group Holdings Ltd. reduced CEO Piyush Gupta’s compensation by S$4.1 million ($3 million) due to digital banking outages last year, following a reprimand from the central bank.

The announced pay cut, revealed alongside DBS earnings on Wednesday, translates to a 30% decrease in Gupta’s variable pay. Gupta, one of the highest-paid executives in the country, earned a total of S$15.4 million in 2022.

Singapore’s largest bank reported a 2% increase in net profit, excluding one-time items, to S$2.39 billion ($1.78 billion) for the three months ending on December 31. This announcement comes amid indications of margin pressure. Analysts had estimated an average of S$2.44 billion. Additionally, DBS proposed a bonus share issue and increased its final dividend.

In 2023, the bank surpassed its medium-term target by achieving a net profit of over S$10 billion and a return on equity of 18%. DBS shares surged by up to 2.7%, marking their highest increase in six weeks.

The disruptions experienced last year, which halted payment and ATM transactions across the city-state, led to a collective 21% reduction in variable pay for DBS’ group management committee compared to the previous year. This includes a more significant 30% decrease for Gupta, one of the highest-paid executives in the country, totaling S$4.1 million.

DBS, the initial major Singapore bank to report results, highlights its strong performance driven by higher interest rates, possibly reaching its peak as rates are anticipated to decline this year.

Competitors United Overseas Bank Ltd. and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp will announce results later this month.

In November, the Monetary Authority of Singapore banned DBS from expanding new business ventures and reducing local branch and ATM networks for six months following a series of digital banking service outages.

The measures were taken after DBS experienced frequent and prolonged disruptions to its online banking services last year. Gupta apologized to customers and assured them that the bank is addressing the issues as a top priority. DBS announced on Wednesday that customers can anticipate improved service reliability, along with alternative channels for payments and inquiries in case of any further issues.

Singapore instructs DBS to cease acquisitions due to fallout from outages.

Under Gupta’s leadership since November 2009, DBS has grown its presence in India, Taiwan, and mainland China through acquisitions and organic expansion. Gupta has also strengthened the bank’s wealth management business, now one of the largest in Asia in terms of assets under management.

Gupta expressed confidence that despite anticipated decreases in interest rates and ongoing geopolitical tensions, the bank will maintain its performance in the upcoming year.

Here are additional details regarding DBS’ results:
  • The net interest margin for its commercial book decreased to 2.75% in the fourth quarter compared to the previous quarter.
  • Net fee income surged by 31% from a year ago, attributed to increased wealth management, card, and loan-related fees, along with the consolidation of Citi Taiwan.
  • Assets under management for wealth management experienced a 23% growth, reaching a new high of S$365 billion, driven by net new money inflows.
  • Total income from treasury markets declined by 45% compared to a year ago due to higher funding costs.
  • A proposed bonus issue entails one bonus share for every ten existing ordinary shares held.

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