Standard Chartered scores in the Far East

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STANDARD Chartered notched up a ninth consecutive year of record earnings in 2011 on the back of buoyant growth in Hong Kong and Singapore, though rising competition for staff pushed up its wages bill.

London-based Standard Chartered, which makes more than three-quarters of its profit in Asia, said strong growth in both investment and retail banking arms absorbed a 15 per cent rise in staff costs and a fall in profit in two of its biggest markets, India and Korea.

Underlying wage inflation was about 5 per cent as the bank competed to hire and retain staff, notably in China and India, chief executive Peter Sands said.

“Yes, we are facing acute competition for talent, but we are still managing to invest and keep a tight grip on costs,” Mr Sands added.

He said the bank paid about £800m in bonuses to staff for last year, similar to 2010.

Total staff costs were $6.6bn, up from $5.8bn in 2010, but that was swelled by costs for a voluntary retirement plan in Korea, foreign exchange effects and the addition of 1,400 staff during the year.

Rival HSBC has warned wages are rising in Asia.

Mr Sands said the bank – Liverpool FC’s shirt sponsor – was likely to add 2-3 per cent to its 87,000 staff this year.

“Growth momentum will likely accelerate in 2012,” said an analyst at BNP Paribas. “Key markets such as India are showing signs of improving, and the bank is well placed to gain market share in areas such as trade finance and wholesale banking.”