Local companies need to do more to retain talented staff if they are to remain competitive on a global scale, a senior accountant said yesterday. Long-term incentive plans were less common among firms here compared with Europe and North America, and companies ran the risk of losing staff if they did not offer sufficient remuneration, said Ian Love, executive services senior manager at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Less than half of the 33 Hang Seng Index members offered their employees share plans and they were even less common among smaller listed companies. Most companies did not go beyond the well-entrenched cash-bonus system, which many companies were now reviewing in the face of the regional financial crisis. In contrast, 99 out of London's FTSE-100 Share Index companies had share-option plans. During economic downturns, when share prices were in some cases at long-term lows, it was an opportune time to be considering such alternatives, Mr Love said. 'Now is the perfect time for offering options as companies want to retain their most valuable staff to get them through the bad times,' he said. ' They must be offered incentives.' There was also the morale-boosting effect of giving all staff a reward when it was likely they might be considering moving on. Mr Love said some industries were more advanced than others in terms of what they offered staff. For example, stock-option plans were considered almost mandatory in the high-tech industry in California's Silicon Valley, while banks also tended to be more pro-active. However, SAR-based fund managers said employees generally preferred cash, and stock-option incentives were not popular because of the stock market's volatility. Mr Love also said tax implications and corporate governance must be considered.