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New Success Stories - Asia
CEO Interviews - exclusive for HR Digital Today
with market leading HR Tech pioneers -Salary Board
Madu Lonascu, CEO & Founder, Salary Board


We were alerted to this company when a recruiter said they had found a superb source of candidates via a web service called Salary Board. Our attention was further focussed when we saw the company provides a salary comparison service, so initially you would think this is THE service for employees. 


We were impressed to see that employees were benefiting by checking their salaries and then were also getting job offers! Employers, recruiters, have also been using this service in increasing numbersand  benefiting from a plentiful source of candidates.


So let us introduce you to the Founder and CEO of Salary Board, Madu Ionascu.


When was Salary Board launched and what are its aims?


We soft launched the Salary Board portal in August 2016. Previously, we had worked on the project for 10 months. The research we completed,before launching Salary Board, indicated that the first criterion for professionals in Singapore, when deciding which job offer to accept, is pay. Over 70% of respondents were dissatisfied with their current compensation.


Pay related searches on search engineshas quadrupled over the last couple of years. But,despite its importance, professionals were telling us that there were no reliable tools to help them accurately benchmark pay. 


We aim to become the reference information services company in the compensation and benefits space in SE Asia.


What was your objective with Salary Board?


Our goal when we launched was to provide PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) with an accurate tool to benchmark their pay and level of responsibilities. This type of content captures the attention of bothpassive and active candidates, and by engaging them it created an interesting business potential.


Since then we have expanded our services to serve also large SMEs and recruitment agencies.



What are the unique features of your service?


In the first months of 2016 we gathered compensation information for over 140,000 professionals through a network of partners,who were collecting data directly from the employers. When we analysed the data we realised, to little surprise, that job titles are very poor predictors of pay. A little over 10% of a person's compensation is determined by their job title.


It was a long and cumbersome process in which we made use of machine learning. This allowed us to determine that certain responsibilities, skills, job family and company characteristics, are the main determinants of how much you are making. In total we identified 32 relevant factors.


A key feature that allows us to deliver on our promise, accurate salaries, is analysing what really matters when determining someone’s pay. For example, if you are a manager, how many people do you manage, do you have disciplinary authority over them, do you define processes, what is the geographical scope of your work etc.


The vast majority of our salary information comes straight from the employers. This alone makes Salary Board a much more reliable solution compared to those that gather employee reported data which tends to be less accurate.


Lastly, we gather data every month. This creates a real-time solution as opposed to the annual salary surveys that are available in the market today.


What do you include in your Compensation Data and Salaries by job title?


We aim to serve all the information that you need in order to have an un-biased conversation about pay. Of course, base pay is important but so is your variable pay, how you compare in terms of responsibilities and experience with others with the same job title or finding the current market demand for your position. 


This last feature is unique to Salary Board and we believe is very important, because hiring doesn’t happen in a void. Salary is ultimately a price. In order to determine the current market demand we look daily at all the job posts advertised and we match them with Salary Board’s knowledge graph. We then compare the results with historic data to understand how high is the current market demand for a certain job or skill.



How have you managed to get over 9,500+ job titles specific to the Marketing and Advertising industry and what is your knowledge graph?


When we start analysing the salary data, we quickly realised that we needed a knowledge graph that included job titles, skills, types of education, companies etc. We tried for weeks to make use of some of the existing job dictionaries such as ONET’s from the US or MOM’s, but none were as detailed as our analysis required. So we had to build our own knowledge graph using over 2.2 million candidate experiences which we obtained from our data partners.


If it is both employer reported and employee reported - how do people enter this data to you?


PMETs enter this data when they go through the personalised report on our website. Companies enter their information, which we make anonymous, into our data pool via our B2B solution. We still receive data from our data partners on a monthly basis.



Knowing and comparing salary information based on specific skills, tasks, responsibilities is of course of interest to all staff but did you envisage any confidentiality issues and how do resolve them?


This is, of course, a key aspect to our business. We have put in place key processes that overcome these issues.


Firstly, we make sure the data shared with us is safe. We use bank-level security and the data is stored with trusted providers such as Amazon Web Services.


Internally, we have a strict data security policy. This establishes a comprehensive data security program, which defines processes for administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect against any unauthorized access or use of the information we store.


Finally, we make sure that no deductions about a specific individual or company can be made from the data we serve.

Are HR people the buyers of your product - who are the key customers?


It greatly depends on the size of the company and the industry. Below 100 employees we find that the CEO and the CFO have a greater say than HR. In larger companies HR gets more empowered.


Who are your primary competitors?


Our solutions are built for PMETs and companies with less than 500 employees.


For PMETs there are a couple of services, such as Glassdoor, that provide somevague salary information. In the US they have a large set of data points. But in Singapore their data is available for less than 900 companies,is based on job title and is employee reported. Compare that with Salary Board’s with more than 39,000 companies, based on what really determines pay, updated monthly and employer reported.


Companies in our target group typically purchase the information through a variety of HR consultants or from a couple of compensation vendors that serve salary surveys. Most of these vendors allow benchmarking a role, based on job title, level of experience and industry and are using data gathered duringtheprevious year. We find this to be quite shallow and making use of those services quite time consuming. There is little surprise that the companies we speak with are unsatisfied with their current solutions.


How is your business organisation made up - ratio of tech staff?


We use technology to generate our value proposition so it comes with no surprise that we are all techies to some degree. Nevetheless,only 60% of our staff works directly in tech development.


What do you look for in your people?


I love working with professionalsthat have the ability to do what needs to be done, without the influence from other people. This self-motivation is essential in an early stage company and it’s hard to instil this into someone from the outside. At best you can encourage it.


Salary Board’s current team members have a trait that I greatly appreciate. Looking for solutions instead of focusing on the many reasons something can’t be done. For example, just recently one of our developers realised that the JavaScript framework that we were using made it complicated to create a certain feature. He studied another framework during 1 week, implemented it and made it possible. I look for this willingness to grow and learn.


I am also seeking people who consider how their work is impacting the company’s objectives, to think for themselves and prioritize their work accordingly. There’s so much to be done in a start-up but there are only 24hrs in a day and we are expanding rapidly.