Mumbai: In a Diwali bonanza, India’s capital market regulator has proposed to extend a pay hike to all its staff that will almost double the salaries of some employees, with retrospective effect from 1 November 2007.

It’s the first pay hike by the Securities and Exchange Board of India, or Sebi, in five years. The raise would be offered to all the employees up to the level of chief general manager. The additional payout by Sebi is estimated to cost at least Rs14.46 crore per year.

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The salaries of incumbent grade F officers, who include chief general managers and legal advisers, would be increased to Rs1,12,333 per month under the revised structure from Rs58,498 per month—a hike of 92% . Managers at lower levels, between grade A and grade E, will earn pay raises ranging between 52% and 72%.

Clerical staff, including secretaries, accounts assistants and library assistants, will be offered a hike of at least 52% with their monthly pay going up to Rs35,313. In addition, the employees will continue to get housing and medical allowances and other benefits separately.

“Sebi continues to hire a number of talented officers at both junior and middle levels currently. The selection process is stringent and often the candidates come from the country’s best law schools and institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Management. We ensure that they are offered the best possible salaries," said a Sebi official on condition of anonymity.

The pay hike followed a board meeting on 25 October.

As of 31 March, Sebi had a total of 607 employees in various grades—493 officers and 114 secretaries and other staff. During 2009-10, two executive directors on a contract basis and one officer of the rank of deputy legal adviser joined the regulator.

The housing allowance offered by Sebi amounts to a considerable sum of up to Rs25,000 for entry level managers at the current scale. This has made Sebi’s package attractive and “has helped Sebi retain many entry level managers", according a junior Sebi employee who didn’t want to be named.

The pay hikes come at a time when the private-sector job market has become attractive. People with experience in Sebi are an asset for any firm, say human resources experts.

“The rule of thumb is double the salary," says Kris Lakshmikanth, managing director, The Head Hunters India Pvt. Ltd. “Companies take compliance very seriously. They are happy to have a person with a prior experience at Sebi. At present, we are finalizing a senior level appointment for a private sector firm at a package of Rs1 crore per annum for one of the Sebi officers."

A sizeable number of Sebi employees are those who have moved from various departments of the government.

“These people like stability of the Sebi job. They may not be able to handle the high- pressure private sector job. Majority of these employees will be happy with the pay hikes," Lakshmikanth says.

But the hikes may not be enough to hold back some young and ambitious employees. In 2008, when the world markets went into a tailspin and private sector jobs dried up, a number of fresh graduates were hired by Sebi. The salary hike may not mean much for these people, who may be looking for greener pastures.

Some others who joined Sebi in the past few years took up a job with it for strategic reasons—to gain experience at the regulator. These people will likely go back to the private sector.

“Also, there are some fast-growing, hardworking people. Salary hikes may not stop them from considering better opportunities elsewhere," says Lakshmikanth.

The latest Sebi annual report says that five officers from the market regulator were deputed to the Competition Commission of India and one officer to the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, cell in the ministry of finance.

During 2009-10, 46 officers were recruited, of which 12 were hired in the legal stream, and the rest in the general stream. They joined directly as officers in grade B during 2009-10. Salaries in grade B would be hiked by 52.88% to Rs42,997 per month under the revised structure.

During the fiscal year 2010, staff entitlements under various heads such as medical reimbursement, briefcase reimbursement, and telephone charges’ reimbursement were enhanced. Benefits such as health check-ups for employees and their spouses were also introduced.

The capital market regulator in 1999 approved a pay scales modelled on that of the Reserve Bank of India, or RBI. Subsequently, pay revisions were implemented at Sebi in 1995, 2001 and 2005.

RBI revised the pay scales and allowances of its staff members in grades A to F in September. The central bank had separately introduced a special allowance and central banking allowance for its employees in November 2005 and January 2007, respectively.

Sebi has proposed to offer similar hikes for its staff members with prospective effect.

Graphic by Paras Jain/Mint