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Asian firms lead West in annual variable pay

201 firms across Asia were polled

The Business Times - March 28, 2012
By: Joshua Tan
Asian firms lead West in annual variable pay

ASIAN firms in Singapore offer higher annual variable pay than Western ones, a Mercer survey shows.

The human resource and financial services consultancy's 2011/2012 Asia Executive Remuneration Snapshot Survey polled 201 firms across Asia. This included 75 from Singapore, 47 per cent with Asian headquarters, and the rest with headquarters in the West.

'Asian companies based in Singapore prefer more flexible pay structures which can be adjusted based on business performance, while Western firms have a higher fixed pay component,' said Lee Shiau Fei, principal, Asean executive remuneration practice at Mercer.

Currently, 65 per cent of Western firms' pay packages are fixed, compared to 41 per cent in Asian firms. The performance metrics used to determine employee bonuses at Asian firms balance top and bottomline measures more equally, whereas 83 per cent of Western firms emphasised profit-based metrics, the survey found.

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With a less formulaic and more discretionary way of determining bonuses, Asian firms also seemed more inclined to grant irregular awards outside of the annual bonus cycle. For instance, 32 per cent of Asian firms, compared to 11 per cent of Western firms, were willing to give these ad hoc awards to employees for the purposes of retention, special recognition, or new hires, the survey found.

While a larger proportion of Western firms have long-term incentive plans (70 per cent compared to 54 per cent of Asian firms), close to a third of Asian firms are looking to change the design of such long- term incentive plans, to increase the target pay-outs of these awards.

'Asian companies are very active in the redesign and re-evaluation of their long-term incentive practices,' said Fermin Diez, senior partner and Mercer's Asia-Pacific business leader for human capital consulting.