DBS Bank’s Group Head of Consumer Banking and Wealth Management, Ms Tan Shu Shan, shared the bank’s transformation journey at the recently held Singapore Healthcare Management Congress 2018.

“Some people say that going to the bank is as painful as going to the dentist,” quipped Ms Tan, “So we asked ourselves: What can we do to make banking joyful?”   The answer is a big cultural change in 2012, focusing on three key changes:

1. Become digital to the core
DBS aims to become a part of the technological space with industry leaders such as Google, Amazon and Netflix.   All these companies have in common their ability to predict what customers want, sometimes even before the customers know what they want.   For example, Netflix can highlight to viewers which programmes that they would like to watch and Google auto-fills search results even before the user completes typing what they are looking for.

“Your tech guys are your heroes! Business is technology and technology is business,” says Ms Tan.   The bank’s first step to becoming digital was to stop outsourcing their IT work.   They remodeled the IT team to ensure that 85% of their technology-related work was done in-house and also created a ‘back-to-school’ programme which educated the engineers about the banking business model.

They also converted their business processes to understand technology and launched the world’s largest API developer platform.   With more than 200 APIs, the bank can work together with numerous partners and businesses, making transactions easier and adding convenience to customers.

The bank’s systems which were manual transformed to automated versions.   For example, by using data analytics DBS can predict when a particular ATM is going to run out of cash to dispense. Ms Tan describes situations where customers had their ATM cards ‘eaten’ by the machines and needed a replacement urgently.   This led them to create ‘video ATMs’ where customers could get a replacement card 24/7.

2. Embed Ourselves in the Customer Journey - ‘Make DBS Invisible’
“Driverless cars, receiving healthcare at home, these are some of the experiences that we might have in the future.   We have to re-imagine experiences,” describes Ms Tan.

Customers do not want their time to revolve around banking, so DBS came up with solutions that integrates them into the customers’ journeys.

Many of us are familiar with DBS’ ‘Paylah’ app, which makes it easy to make everyday payments and money transfers.   The ‘POSB Smart Buddy’ is a watch which allows children to tap and pay in schools or at selected merchants.   Paired with a mobile app, it allows parents to allocate allowances, and check on their child’s savings or spending.   POSB Smart Buddy has also created a community for parents who are eager to educate their children about financial management.

A giant leap for DBS was when it introduced ‘Digibank’ in Indonesia and India.   The entirely branchless, paperless bank enables customers to open accounts without any signatures or paperwork, allowing people to create an account without going to a branch.

3. Create a 22,000 staff start-up
How do you change the culture of a large organisation and ensure that they take risks, operate in a nimble way and have an energy similar to those in a start-up?

To drive this, the bank rolled out several programmes including hackathons where participants work together in 24 hours (or less) to create an app that tackles an existing problem.   Bright talents from these hackathons even get recruited to be part of the DBS team.

Other tips that Ms Tan shares on creating a startup culture include:

  • Being customer obsessed and data-driven: every meeting starts with going through the customers’ journey and a look at data
  • Take risks and experiment: a ‘best failure award’ encourages staff to not fear failure
  • Be a learning organisation: getting staff to work with industry partners, startups and government agencies, and providing staff with time and money for training opportunities

At DBS, 14,800 of their staff are engaged in innovation programmes.   This gives employees renewed confidence and they become more open to experimenting with data and technology, more willing to take risks experiment with new ideas and most importantly be a part of a learning organisation.

By embracing change and innovation, DBS is making banking joyful.   It’s an example of how an organisation with 20,000+ staff can transform in just a few years by keeping a strong focus on customers’ experience. SingHealth currently employs 28,500 people - can we also transform quickly and improve our patients’ experience?