Ex-UOB employee in London sues over 'unfair dismissal'

LONDON • A former employee at United Overseas Bank’s (UOB) London branch is suing over unfair dismissal, after saying he was denied a new job because he is not Asian.

Mr Daniel Smith, who worked at Singapore’s third-largest bank for over 20 years, said a manager told him that a candidate from South-east Asia was a better “fit” for a role. Mr Smith said the minutes of the meeting were later altered when he questioned the comments, and he lost his position shortly afterwards.

“To have been overlooked… and discriminated in the way I was, is such a big let-down, given everything I had given to the bank,” he said in a court filing.

In British employment cases, an award is capped at around £84,000 (S$147,000) unless workers can show discrimination or that they were blowing the whistle on improper actions. UOB’s lawyer said Mr Smith was “kicking up dust” to get a larger payout.

Mr Smith, who was a senior officer in the bank’s treasury business, was initially asked to apply for new roles, as the London branch ceased to offer clearing services. He said the general manager, Mr Andy Cheah, told him the bank had found an Asian candidate “who would fit into UOB well”.

While Mr Cheah acknowledged that he had used the “descriptive” term that the candidate was Asian, he said “her race and nationality have absolutely nothing to do with her selection”.

Mr Smith said UOB changed the minutes of the meeting that originally described how the candidate had to “fit into UOB, which had a strong Asian influence”, to read that the candidate needed an “ability to fit into UOB’s banking culture”.

Mr Smith, who worked at UOB from 1993 to 2017, said he felt he “wasn’t good enough just because I was not South-east Asian”.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a UOB spokesman said the bank is committed to ensuring equal employment opportunities based on merit, such as having the relevant skills.

“The promotion of cultural, ethnic, gender and other forms of diversity is a critical part of the group’s strategy in serving our diverse client base.”


 • Additional reporting by Derek Wong

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