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Transformed banking: How to digitise completely

  • Posted on June 7, 2018
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
DBS bank transformation
In my first blog post, I talked about how DBS Bank of Singapore realised early on that it needed to become digital ‘to the core’, reimagine the customer journey and make the bank’s culture more entrepreneurial. However, to change the culture of the bank from a government department to a commercial entity, cultural transformation was the critical part of the change process.

Piyesh Gupta, its CEO since 2009 said, “When we first started out along this road, we compared ourselves with emerging FinTechs and the start-up world and concluded that we really had to digitise completely, not just by putting on digital lipstick. We were determined to go beyond just tacking on a bunch of digital apps at the front end – that’s the easy bit. We wanted to go all the way through to middleware and the back end. One of our rallying cries has been how do you create a 22,000-person start-up?”

As long as it helps the customer, it’s worth doing
By 2017, 44% of DBS Bank's revenues (S$11.6B) were from digital platforms, a 38% increase from 2015 of S$10.1B. A total of 16% of new wealth customers opened accounts with the bank digitally and 51% of SME customers opened accounts online. Over 90% of the bank’s remittances were executed by customers digitally. By the end of 2016, DBS had voice biometric authentication at its Singapore Customer Centre. They were the first Singapore bank to pilot cloud-based productivity technology, using Microsoft Office 365 in the workplace as a major tool for change enablement.

DBS created a ‘Digital Institute’ to train staff in digital awareness, coding, design thinking, data analytics, UX and digital marketing. They embraced ‘human-centred design’ principles in all customer and employee journeys, thinking deeply about both experiences. Since 2016, staff have run more than 350 employee and customer journeys. The KPI for all Gupta’s direct reports – about 300 people – is that they must own an employee or customer journey.

Gupta ensures a hands-on cultural change programme, sitting down and showing staff what digital can do - not just some top-down edicts. He cited that when you give people the freedom to go and try a few things with a rubric that says, “As long as it helps the customer, it is worth doing,” it opens up a lot of possibilities. Everybody is part of this reimagining of the customer journey.

In its drive to be more entrepreneurial, DBS increased its partnerships with local start-ups via its HotSpot pre-accelerator programme. The six-month programme allowed start-ups in FinTech, social enterprise and digital technology, plus innovators within the bank, to get advice from entrepreneurs, pitch their business ideas to executives, develop their products and seek funding. In November 2017, DBS unveiled a technology platform in Singapore where over 70 partners connected; DBS customers looking for a home on PropertyGuru can now check eligibility for a mortgage and apply.

Digital innovation pervades every part of DBS
A good example of how far DBS ‘rotated to digital’ was the launch of digibank in India in April 2016. DBS is based in Singapore and has a presence in Hong Kong, but needed to expand its business overseas. digibank was the first mobile-only bank in India and employed a tiny fraction of back office staff that a bank normally needs. It acquired 2 million customers with just 60-70 staff employees. In fact, 85% of customer queries were handled by a chatbot. Customers could open an account with their thumbprint via 600 Starbucks outlets (a thumb reader machine was given to shops and linked to its POS). Digital customers generated twice the revenues of non-digital ones and cost-income ratios went down by 10%.

In July 2016, DBS won the Euromoney award for ‘the world’s best digital bank’. The website claims that "it is demonstrably the case that digital innovation pervades every part of DBS, from consumer to corporate, SMEs to transaction banking and even the DBS Foundation."

So DBS’ digital transformation appears to be working well. But does it make any money? This is the topic of my next blog post.
Key Takeaways:
  • No ‘digital lipstick’ – it must be in all areas of the company
  • Empower all staff to ‘do what’s right for the customer’, whether front- or back-office
  • Have a structured programme to develop digital skills at all levels
  • Use digital to combine efficiency and customer satisfaction (e.g. digibank launch)

Learn more about Avanade Digital Innovation and check out your company's digital readiness with the Avanade Digital Maturity Assessment tool.

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