hsbc lay-offs bombshell matched by equally rare compensation On December 26 the Taiwan earthquake knocked internet communications into a tizzy all over Asia. Now the information technology guys at Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp are experiencing their own little earthquake. The bank has offered what is politely known as a voluntary separation scheme to 120 of its IT staff - just a few days after Hong Kong's Chief Executive said that our economy was the strongest it had been in 20 years. Well, perhaps things are not quite that good for the local arm of the banking giant, what with rising costs and thinner profit margins. That could be why HSBC has offered a compensation package to lower its headcount - something it hasn't done for a decade. We're told the IT department, which serves not just Hong Kong but the region too, has a total complement of 2,400 staff, so that the lay-offs will reduce its strength by 5 per cent. (More interesting, even a little sobering, is that going by those figures one of every six local employees of HSBC works in IT.) Some Chinese papers have reported that staff who agree to depart will get a month's salary for every year of service. Although one employee in a different department said he'd be happy to accept that kind of an offer, we weren't able to verify the terms. reit puts another link in place How hard can it be to find someone capable of managing the largest shopping mall operator in Hong Kong? Well, it took the Link Reit, which owns the malls and parking garages on public housing estates - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as some people call it - 15 months to appoint someone to manage its books. Yesterday it appointed former Kerry Properties chief financial officer Chew Fook Aun as director and chief financial officer. Besides his committee work for the professional accounting bodies, the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Hong Kong Football Club, he also manages a property portfolio for Kyard, a holding company believed to be connected to the Hotung family. Mr Chew, who signed a three-year contract, will earn at least HK$4.2 million a year for his trouble, plus a discretionary bonus of at least 20 per cent of his salary. disneyland calls in florida cavalry The Link Reit wasn't the only local organisation with problems finding people for leadership posts. It also took Hong Kong Disneyland almost a year to find a marketing chief for the Magic Kingdom. It emerged yesterday that Jill Esparino will move from Disney's Florida headquarters to fill the vacancy created by the resignation in April last year of senior vice-president Roy Tan Hardy. According to our source, a local co-head of marketing will be appointed in about a month. leung sheds his independence We were surprised to see that Shui On Land has changed the title of Leung Chun-ying (below) from independent non-executive director to just plain non-executive director. He will be the first to bear that title on Shui On's star-studded board of directors (which includes John Bond and William Fung Kwok-lun). The company did not state the reasons for the realignment, nor did its public relations people return our calls. We imagine Mr Leung, who is the chairman of DTZ Debenham Tie Leung, may be hankering for Shui On Land's business. When Shui On did its IPO last year, its property appraisal was done by DTZ's competitor Knight Frank Petty. social work record takes battering Social workers will be shocked to learn that Aaron Wan Chi-keung, owner of insolvent Security Centre, is having problems making good on the wages of the 900 guards he sacked last week. Mr Wan is a member of the Advisory Committee on Social Work Training and Manpower Planning and was a member of the Social Welfare Advisory Committee. What happened to Security Centre will probably qualify him as an adviser to the Labour Department. The Bronze Bauhinia Star holder is also advising the Urban Renewal Authority. He is also an independent non-executive director of Emperor International Holdings and Lee & Man Holding.