HSBC employees are expecting a pay rise early next year in a move that could bring knock-on rises for thousands of other employees in the banking sector. Speculation is rife in the company, one of the territory's largest private-sector employers, with 13,500 workers, that an end to a two-year pay freeze is in sight after a huge increase in profits reported earlier this year. 'I'm pretty sure there will be a pay rise announcement by the beginning of next year,' a senior bank executive said. 'There have been a lot of rumours about the percentage of the pay rise since the chairman talked about it. I'm not so sure about the two-to-three per cent rumour but I think everything will happen in due time.' The bank refused to comment on the rumours. In August, HSBC Holdings reported its attributable profits had risen 31 per cent to US$3.52 billion (HK$27.38 billion) for the six months to June 30. For HSBC's Hong Kong operations the figure was US$1.9 billion, up from US$1.39 billion, for half-year pre-tax profits. Its competitors in the SAR were also secretive when asked about pay rises. Bank of China, which has about 16,000 employees, said it was too early to make a decision. 'It will be up to the bank's management to decide if they wish to bring the rise for next year forward,' a spokesman said. Standard Chartered Bank said a salary increase was on the cards due to the improving economy. 'However, we are in no position to tell you exactly what the actual size of the rise will be. It will only be revealed around March or April, though the chances of a rise are very likely,' a spokesman said. The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions said a pay rise by HSBC would be an influential move in bringing about similar salary increases for employees in other large corporations as well as smaller firms. Vice-chairman Poon Siu-ping said: 'With this year's economy looking a lot stronger than last year's, there is enormous pressure for companies to share out the fruits of the growth to keep the staff happy enough to remain at firms.' The chairman of the Clerical and Professional Employees' Association, Leung Chi-kong, said a 10 per cent increase would be more acceptable given the size of the bank's profits.