Thursday, 6 October 2022

Public Bank CEO Tay Ah Lek overtakes DBS CEO Piyush Gupta as the Asia Pacific’s highest-paid bank chief executive

5 min read

By Wendy Weng

Tay Ah Lek saw a 6.5% rise in total remuneration to $9.2 million in 2020 despite the pandemic, which was 250 times the average pay Public Bank’s employees received.

  • Top ten highest-paid bank chief executives in Asia pacific comprises three CEOs of Australian banks, three CEOs of Singapore bank, and two each from Hong Kong and Malaysia
  • Among top ten, the five bank CEOs in Hong Kong and Singapore took a pay cut in FY2020, while the other five in Australia and Malaysia received pay rises
  • Banks in Malaysia, India and Singapore had larger gaps between CEO and median employee pay

Tay Ah Lek, Public Bank’s managing director and chief executive officer (CEO), earned $9.2 million in 2020, surpassing DBS CEO Piyush Gupta to become the highest-paid bank chief executive in Asia Pacific for FY2020, with a March 2021 cutoff. Despite the pandemic, Tay Ah Lek’s total remuneration rose by 6.5% from $8.47 million in the previous year. DBS cut Piyush Gupta’s bonus by 27% in 2020, and therefore, his total pay was down by 24.3% from $9 million in 2019 to $ 6.95 million.

The top ten highest-paid bank chief executives in the region comprises three CEOs of Australian banks, three CEOs of Singapore banks, and two each from Hong Kong and Malaysia. The five bank CEOs in Hong Kong and Singapore took a pay cut in FY2020, while the other five in Australia and Malaysia received pay rises. 

Highest-paid bank executives in APAC are from Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong

Among the top ten, the CEOs of DBS and OCBC took the largest pay cut. In its annual report, DBS said that Piyush Gupta’s lower bonus reflects the difficult operating environment, general cutbacks adopted across the bank and the reduction in the bank's profits by 26%. The bank posted its first annual drop in net profit since 2016. Samuel Tsien, who retired as group CEO of OCBC in April 2021, ranked fourth in the list of bank CEO remuneration in the region, with his total remuneration down by 22.1% from $8.24 million in 2019 to $6.53 million. UOB’s deputy chairman and CEO Wee Ee Cheong ranked second, as he received remuneration amounting to $7.42 million in 2020, 8.8% lower than what he was paid in 2019.

Bank executives in Australia and Malaysia received pay rises

Hong Leong Bank’s CEO and group managing director Domenic Fuda earned $3.99 million in FY2020, up by 11.6% compared to $3.71 million in FY2019. In addition to Tay Ah Lek and Domenic Fuda, some bank chief executives in Malaysia also received pay rises such as Maybank CEO Abdul Farid Alias, AMMB Holdings group CEO Sulaiman Bin Mohd Tahir and Alliance Bank CEO Joel Kornreich. The financial year end is June 30 for Hong Leong Bank, December 31 for Public Bank and Maybank, and March 31 for AMMB Holdings and Alliance Bank.

In Australia, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) managing director and CEO Matthew Comyn saw an 28.6% increase in remuneration for FY2020 to $3.92 million compared to $3.1 million in FY2019. Mary Reemst retired as managing director and CEO of Macquarie Bank in July 2021 and around 71% of her remuneration is related to the amortisation of her equity awards. The four major banks in Australia, with a June 30 or September 30 reporting date have disclosed their executive remuneration for FY2021. The CEOs of all these four banks were paid more in FY2021. Ross Maxwell McEwan was appointed as group CEO and managing director of National Australia Bank (NAB) in December 2019 and he was paid $3.8 million in FY2021, while Peter Francis King has become CEO and managing director of Westpac Banking Corporation since April 2020 and he received $3 million in remuneration in FY2021.

Banks in Malaysia, India and Singapore had larger gaps between CEO and employees’ pay

The gap between the pay of chief executives and bank staff remains an issue, especially in Malaysia, India and Singapore. Tay Ah Lek’s total remuneration in 2020 was 250 times the average annual pay of Public Bank’s full-time employees, which was about $35,200. During 2010 and 2020, his total remuneration rose at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19%. In contrast, on average, the median employee pay of Public Bank was only up by 6.3% per year during the same period. Although the pay gap between the CEOs and staff of Singapore’s three largest banks narrowed in 2020, Wee Ee Cheong and Samuel Tsien still made nearly 100 times as much as the bank staff on average.

In addition, some chief executives of Indian banks are also on the list. HDFC Bank’s Aditya Puri, who retired as managing director and CEO of HDFC Bank in October 2020, earned $1.9 million in the financial year 2020-2021, ended on March 31,2021 and $2.5 million in the year earlier, which were 121 times and 171 times the average pay earned by the bank’s employees, respectively. Axis Bank CEO and managing director Amitabh Chaudhry and ICICI Bank’s Sandeep Bakhshi also made 77 times and 74 times as much as these two banks’ employees on average in the financial year 2019-2020, respectively, although Sandeep Bakhshi had forgone his salary for the financial year 2020-2021.



Institution: Public Bank, UOB, DBS, OCBC, Macquarie Bank, Hong Leong Bank, CBA, ANZ, Hang Seng Bank, Bank Of East Asia, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, IndusInd Bank, Maybank
Guest: Tay Ah Lek, Wee Ee Cheong, Piyush Gupta, Samuel Tsien, Mary Reemst, Domenic Fuda, Matthew Comyn, Shayne Elliott, Louisa Cheang, David LI Kwok-po, Aditya Puri, Amitabh Chaudhry, Sumant Kathpalia, Abdul Farid Alias
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