SocGen Designates Singapore Office

SocGen Designates Singapore Office As Back-up Asian HQ

SINGAPORE – To enable Société Générale to transfer at least 12 bankers in Hong Kong to Singapore, the French multinational bank entered into a deal with the city-state’s government despite stricter rules on foreign hires, reported The Financial Times on Thursday (5 May, SGT).

Two sources said the deal with Singapore’s government was made earlier in 2022 after Société Générale came under pressure from Hong Kong employees who wanted to escape the Chinese city’s draconian COVID measures.

Under the deal, Société Générale officially designated its Singapore office as its back-up location for its Asia headquarters in Hong Kong, the centre of its regional operations since 1977, said one of the sources. The financial firm was then able to declare a business “emergency” and temporarily relocated staff to ensure “continuity” after Hong Kong ramped up its pandemic restriction.

The source said the deal showed that Singapore’s government doesn’t want to be viewed as being “too obstructionist” to expatriate employees, even as it intensified restrictions on foreign workers.

Notably, Singapore’s government has been struggling to balance the demands of global businesses and local hiring in recent years. While the city-state wants to further enhance its reputation as a regional financial hub, it has come under pressure from the locals to control immigration amid rising anti-foreigner sentiment.

This year, the authorities increased the minimum salary required by foreign professionals to get a visa and tightened restrictions on the number of foreign workers that firms can hire. Although the government said the limit does not apply to skilled professionals, companies revealed that the restrictions were often applied informally.

“Singapore has these quotas… (Société Générale) will never get the staff (in on longer-term visas),” said one of the sources. Still the bank realised that it will face issues retaining staff if it did not respond to their demands to relocate from Hong Kong.

Another source said Singapore supported the transfer of Hong Kong bankers because the government saw the move as an opportunity to lure good finance jobs.

Société Générale is among several multinational banks that have recently relocated employees from Hong Kong to Singapore as COVID measures in the Chinese city disrupt inward and outbound travel. Global banks that have relocated senior staff from Hong Kong recently include Citibank, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase.

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