Dah Sing Financial Holdings yesterday laid off 120 staff as it completed the merger of Dah Sing Bank and Mevas Bank. Areas affected included the banks' credit card and phone banking centres, retail loan departments, branches and marketing sections. Dah Sing said the restructuring would help enhance efficiencies and improve services. About 50 financial planners and VIP banking relationship managers would be hired, as the bank re-focused its resources on investment and wealth management services, it said, without giving a specific timetable. The bank also said Dah Sing Bank had appointed Vivian Yu head of personal banking. Dah Sing Financial Holdings closed yesterday at HK$39.60. Meanwhile, low-skilled bank employees who lose their jobs this year may be replaced by high-skilled workers, according to Raymond Or Ching-fai, the incoming chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Banks (HKAB). Speaking at the association's first meeting of the year yesterday, Mr Or said while some low-skilled workers could expect to be laid off, increasing demand for high-skilled employees such as financial planners would mean no net lay-offs for the banking industry. 'If staff can educate themselves and add value, they still have many opportunities in the banking sector. But as for the lower-skilled jobs, we will see some lost,' he said. Financial institutions might continue to re-focus resources on wealth management services as loan demand remained weak, Mr Or said. He believed banking conditions in Hong Kong would remain challenging this year, partly due to uncertainties over the recovery of the United States economy. Mr Or said the HKAB was hoping to join forces with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) to lobby mainland officials to speed up the opening of China's financial-services sector. 'We hope the HKAB and HKMA can together lobby for a faster opening, so that Hong Kong banks can expand their businesses quicker,' he said. 'We hope that the opening up of all types of financial services will be sped up.' He said the association was planning to organise a visit to Beijing by an HKMA delegation to meet People's Bank of China president Zhou Xiaochuan.