As traditional banks look for new ways to compete in an increasingly connected global market, DBS Bank has embraced change and innovation, reimagining itself as a 22,000-person start-up and shedding the misperception of being a slow-paced financial institution.
DBS Bank has a long history of technological innovation, installing Singapore’s first ATM in 1974, creating Singapore’s first Internet banking platform in 1997, and launching a suite of mobile banking apps in 2010—before smartphones were in every hand.
But by 2013, CEO Piyush Gupta saw that DBS and many incumbent industry players were wrestling with the challenges posed by a new wave of disruptions from aggressive FinTech startups, and a few traditional banks had already committed to making a digital transformation.
“The DBS board therefore took the view that the future for us and for our industry would have to be digital,” Gupta says. “We felt that if we didn’t lead the charge, frankly, we might die.”
So, DBS spent the past four years re-architecting its tech infrastructure, transforming its front end, and becoming digital to its core. The process, Gupta says, began with changing the bank’s culture, as well as tech infrastructure, and by utilizing Big Data, biometrics, cloud, and artificial intelligence with the aim of making banking simple and seamless for all DBS customers.
“In theory, the bank can become invisible and seamlessly embed banking services into day-to-day life,” Gupta explains. The bank did just that, introducing DBS PayLah!, Singapore’s first mobile wallet; DBS digibank, India’s first mobile-only bank; DBS iWealth, a cutting edge digital wealth-management platform; and online services for opening accounts easily – the first in Asia.
DBS didn’t stop there, rolling out innovative business-level digital products for corporate clients, such as DBS IDEAL, a platform available online and on mobile that enables account holders to check balances, approve payments, and track checks. The bank even launched an online social network for start-ups and SMEs called DBS Business Class to connect business owners with one another and keep them abreast of the latest market news.
Corporate, wealth and retail customers have increasingly adopted the bank’s digital products and services. By 2015, 16% of DBS’s new wealth customers opened accounts digitally, and half of SME customers in Singapore used DBS’s Online Account Opening Service. More than 90% of the bank’s remittances are now made via DBS Remit.
It’s no wonder DBS Bank led the digital-banking industry in multiple categories in 2016, named World’s Best Digital Bank by Euromoney, Asia’s Bank of the Year by The Banker, and receiving top honors from Global Finance for web site design, bill payment & presentation, and for being Asia’s safest bank.
What’s ahead? Chief Innovation Officer Neal Cross recently created an info-graphic where he envisions technology seamlessly integrating with everyday life by 2025: Chips that tell you when you’re catching a cold, bots that answer your emails—even cars that can buy your groceries.
“We believe that banks tomorrow will look fundamentally different from banks today,” Gupta says.
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