For finance pros, Asia expat life losing perks

Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:22pm EDT
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By Michael Flaherty and James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - For most financial market professionals in this city and other hubs across Asia, the days of extravagant expatriate life have ended. For now at least.

The standard HK$200,000 per month ($25,641) housing allowance for top bankers is gone or going in most cases.

Paid-for chauffeurs to tote executives and their families around the steep hills of Hong Kong are scarcer, as are free memberships to exclusive country, golf or dinner clubs that may otherwise cost more than HK$2.1 million to join.

Free private school education for the kids, roughly $10,000 per child at international schools, is getting scaled back too.

And in another sign of lean times, corporate ships for pleasure cruises around Hong Kong's myriad beaches and outlying islands are getting auctioned off, with UBS AG among the financial institutions to recently set plans to part with its junk boat reserved for employees and clients.

Many banking executives from Wall Street and Europe still live a life of luxury in Asia. But for many others, the "expat" life of perks is a fading phenomenon.

"Those kind of packages will not be offered to the extent they were in the past," said Paul Lucas, vice president for real estate at Pricoa Relocation.

Starting last December, Morgan Stanley, like other Wall Street banks, began rolling housing benefits into salaries. New hires, in most cases, will not be granted housing allowances, sources inside the bank say.   Continued...

<p>A man cleans the hull of a yacht at a Hong Kong yacht club in Hong Kong, July 23, 2009. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu</p>