Maybank Kim Eng, the investment banking and securities broking arm of Malaysia’s largest bank and financial services group, has laid off some 30 of its Singapore staff in an organization-wide review of its staff strength. The cuts reportedly also affect its regional institutional sales and research team, and its Hong Kong investment banking and advisory businesses.
This comes almost a year after Maybank closed its Hong Kong and China institutional equity research business, reportedly to focus on South-east Asian operations, and also gave its employees in Malaysia a 10 percent pay hike.
The investment banking landscape has become difficult in recent years. A volatile economic environment, the Sino-US trade war, and shifting preferences towards passive investing in safer, lower-maintenance funds have been compounded in Singapore by low interest rates and the increasing popularity of online platforms, both do-it-yourself and robo-investing. With trading commissions sinking lower and lower, investment banking is looking less and less profitable--at the end of September, Maybank's investment banking division had reported a pre-tax loss of 7.3 million ringgit (US$1.75 million).
Maybank is only the latest in a string of financial institutions to cut their investment banking staff in Singapore. In September this year, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group decided to slash the Singapore and Hong Kong headcount of its securities arm by half--about 90 jobs were lost. In April, Nomura Holdings letgo eight out of nine of its equities research staff.