Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2011, 12:00am

A 25pc bonus increase is not enough for these poor dears

It should come as no great surprise that 33 per cent of the city's finance professionals were dissatisfied with their 2010 bonus. Indeed the surprise is that anyone admitted to being satisfied. Many in the industry have got showing bonus displeasure down to a finely honed art.

This displeasure is detailed in the global bonus survey compiled by eFinancialCareers, which shows the level of displeasure is more or less the same in Singapore, Australia, the United States and Britain. Yet Hong Kong stands out as having the biggest percentage increase over 2009 with a 25 per cent rise. Singapore and Australia both had 13 per cent gains, the US minus 5 per cent and Britain 5 per cent.

The survey's authors forecast considerable upheaval in the business in Hong Kong, with 58 per cent expecting to change positions this year, 45 per cent of them looking to change firms and 13 per cent looking to change positions within their existing firms.

On average, sell-side professionals, ie the brokers, got a bonus some 48 per cent bigger than those on the buy side, according to the survey. Overall, 74 per cent of finance professionals' pay rose 31 per cent in 2010. And they are unhappy, poor dears. They will tell us that they work so hard. But if their track record over the past few years is any guide, the harder they work the more they screw the place up for the rest of us.

Cathay chief's highs and lows

Tony Tyler was in reflective mood last week as he bid au revoir to Hong Kong at that temple of inebriation, the Foreign Correspondents' Club, with a look back at his 33 years at Swire. The soon-to-be-erstwhile chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airways pointed out that he and Clive Saffery, chief executive of Swire Beverages China, were the only two still working for Swire out of the nine university graduates who joined in 1977.

This was at a time when the exchange rate was HK$8 to the British pound. In the work hard, play hard mentality of the time and regaling a packed house with tales of innocence lost abroad, he recognised he might not have made it that long, and not reached the stratospheric heights of chief executive, had digital cameras and social media been around 30 years ago.

So what were the high and low spots of a career that included testing whether prospective cabin crew recruits in the Philippines could sink or swim in the Manila Hotel swimming pool? Well, the high spot was being in the cockpit on the last flight out of Kai Tak and watching the lights go out as the former airport closed for the last time during the overnight switch to Chek Lap Kok.

The lowest point was during Sars, when business collapsed and Cathay, which had been flying an average of 35,000 people, saw volumes dwindle to fewer than 5,000 passengers a day, with more cabin crew than travellers on some flights to Taipei. His advice to budding airline executives after navigating through the Asian financial crisis, bird flu, Sars, volcanic eruptions, blizzards, quakes and tsunami: 'It'll never be easy. In the good times enjoy them, but don't get used to them.'

An impossible task?

Martin Wheatley (pictured) is into the final stretch as chief executive of the Securities and Futures Commission. He's got a few months left before scurrying off four months before his contract ends to become head of Britain's Consumer Protection and Markets Authority.

He was speaking at the TradeTech conference, an event for buy-side traders on 'What do regulators want from the trading marketplace?'

He amusingly likened the SFC's role to that of Mel Gibson in the film What Women Want. You can see where he is going with this. Some people, not us, believe that it is virtually impossible to know what women want.

He said regulators have to take into account a number of factors such as competition and, interestingly, politics, to find a balance in arriving at a decision.

One thing we can tell him that they didn't want, which they got, was minibonds.

Weighty issues

Julian Ragless, senior vice-president and head of platform development at the stock exchange, was also speaking at the TradeTech conference, moaning about how difficult it was to get things done because of the many stakeholders.

Take the vexed issue of shortening the lunch break from 21/2 hours to 11/2 hours. He said Charles Li Xiaojia put on 10 pounds in weight as a result of the wining and dining he was compelled to undertake with various broker associations in an effort to get the measure through.

Just imagine how much weight he is going to gain when the exchange attempts something serious. The effort of getting independent non-executive directors elected by shareholders would kill him.

 

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