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How DBS is Building a Digitally Innovative Organisation

Representative image.
(Photo: Reuters)

Representative image. (Photo: Reuters)

The banking industry is being profoundly impacted by changing customer expectations and new technologies brought about by fintechs and non-traditional banking players such as e-commerce and social media platforms. They are disrupting the financial services value chain and business models of traditional banks. The future success of banks depends on their ability to collaborate and harness digital opportunities.

DBS, Southeast Asia’s largest bank by assets is transforming itself to become more nimble, and is reimagining customers’ experiences to make banking joyful. DBS CEO Piyush Gupta said, “We want to create a unique banking experience that is simpler, smarter and faster by embedding ourselves in our customers’ lives. To do this, bankers cannot just be subject matter specialists. They must be proficient in myriad trends impacting the industry.”

The most adaptable organisations will survive and thrive. DBS has been changing its culture by adopting the habits of digitally native companies while marrying this with the professionalism expected of a best-in-class bank with a deep understanding of Asia’s cultural nuances and environment.

The bank has three strategic priorities:

1. Embrace the digital world – conquer mobile, social and data

2. Embed itself in the customer journey

3. Live its PRIDE! values – being purpose-driven, relationship-led, innovative, decisiveness, everything fun!

DBS is creating an enabling environment and providing tools and processes for digital adoption, agile work processes, experimentation and employee collaboration. A key initiative of internalising innovation is to integrate hackathons into talent development programmes to give employees an opportunity to work on business challenges alongside startups. More than 2,000 employees out of 22,000 in the group have participated in hackathons, digital workshops, user experience and human-centred design workshops. Khoo Teng Cheong, Head of Learning and Development at DBS said, “These hackathons serve as a sandbox for employees to experiment like startups, and utilise lean startup methodology and human-centred design to identify and act on opportunities quickly.”

DBS is one of the first few banks in the region to launch hackathons, and also wholly own a pre-accelerator programme – DBS HotSpot. This programme aims to drive a more innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Selected digital startups including fintechs, social entrepreneurs and DBS intrapreneurs can gain access to a network of successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and are given seed grants – participants do not need to give up equity. Intrapreneurs can take sabbatical leave to develop their business ideas and build prototypes. Last year, one employee’s startup that was incubated is Crux, a news data analytics tool for Asia. Another startup is Cinch, an integrated financial management system to help SMEs manage invoicing and cashflow. Both startups are exploring collaborative opportunities with the bank and external partners.

In 2016, the bank announced Uni.Corn, a programme to reinvent internship for university students in Singapore. Instead of a conventional internship, students will be trained in human-centred design and lean startup methodologies to solve business challenges faced by DBS.

The bank has invested heavily in learning and development to build deep leadership and specialist skills. The DBS Academy in Singapore and learning centres across the region were launched to offer courses on experiential learning, scenario-based applications and digital competencies such as big data analytics and social media marketing. The DBS Academy space is made available to SMEs and social enterprises that are also the customers of the financial services group.

In addition, external collaborations are sought for the bank’s talent to be continuously exposed to new, cutting-edge technologies. With the Agency of Science Technology and Research (A*STAR), a public sector agency in Singapore that spearheads science and technology research, DBS established joint-research labs to develop predictive analytics for operational efficiencies and better risk management. The bank is also working with IBM to deploy IBM Watson cognitive computing to enhance its client wealth management advisory services.

Proactive engagement between management and staff remains a hallmark of DBS’ leadership. Senior management holds regular group-wide and departmental townhalls, while country heads host bank-wide online video webchats to answer questions from staff. Across the group, close to 4,500 employees participated, which generated 730 topics and over 1,600 comments in 2015.

The bank also gives opportunities for its employees to give back and to adopt social causes that they feel strongly about. In 2015, more than 4,000 staff contributed to the community and reached out to 16,000 people through 27,000 hours of volunteering activities. Employees also mentor social enterprises. In 2015, more than 300 employees across the bank volunteered their time and expertise to support social enterprises on their strategies and operations. Employees also participated in DBS scalathons, which are intensive brainstorming sessions to tackle business problems faced by social enterprises.


(This is a sponsored article by DBS to educate consumers about its digital initiatives.)

first published:April 23, 2016, 14:45 IST