Fri. May 31st, 2024
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TL;DR – DBS’ digital transformation from a legacy to a tech company.

Banks are notorious for being resistant to change. But even they are feeling the effects of disruption.

Japan’s biggest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), is set to undergo the most dramatic reduction in headcount since it was formed almost 20 years ago. MUFG is considering eliminating about 10,000 positions, almost 7% of its total headcount. MUFG announced a “re-imagining” strategy in May, saying it would cut 120 billion yen (S$1.5 billion) of costs over several years through initiatives such as using financial technology to add digital banking channels and streamline back-office functions.

DBS – from near death to world’s best

In Singapore, DBS has started re-imagining banking since its “near-death” experience in 2009. As banks all over the world were reeling from the effects of the financial crisis, DBS was struggling with making customers satisfied.

DBS was at rock bottom when it came to Customer Experience scores back in 2009 (via)


Amongst all the banks in Singapore, DBS had the worst customer satisfaction. People even joked (or maybe they weren’t joking) that DBS stood for “Damn Bloody Slow”.

I attended a Learning Journey organised by Young NTUC to DBS Asia X, where Mr Bidyut Dumra, Executive Director of DBS Innovation Group, talked about how DBS went from that “near-death” experience in 2009 to being one of Asia’s best bank and the world’s best digital bank. In fact, it has just been named the world’s best bank by Global Finance magazine.

Mr Bidyut DUMRA – (Executive Director, DBS Innovation Group) walked the youths through “Reimagine Banking” – DBS Transformation Journey (via)


Mr Bidyut Dumra talked about how DBS started to focus on making banking joyful by redesigning banking processes with a customer-centric mindset. They started looking at things from the customers’ perspectives, striving to understand the job that people want done when they use DBS’s banking services. DBS also started to use the number of hours they can save for their customers as a key metric of how well they are performing.

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Along with this change of mindset, Mr Bidyut told the participants of the learning journey that DBS also changed they way they did things. They started writing different “customer journeys” of customers when they interacted with the bank. They then used these customer journeys to discover the customer’s pain points, define the issues, develop and deliver a solution to the customer.

When thinking about customer experience, the bank actually aims to be omnipresent. To make banking invisible means to integrate banking into customers’ everyday lives (via)


They also started to make better and more extensive use of data.

But arguably, the most important component that allowed DBS to successfully re-imagine banking is their investment in people. The bank needs to be a learning organisations with a workforce of innovators in order for it to transform from a legacy to a tech company.

A strategy does not a transformation make. Plans remain just plans until people execute and implement them. DBS recognises that people is a critical component, and hence it tries to transform internal culture into that of a Learning Organisation. This is key in its transformation from a legacy to a tech company (via)


Ms Pratima Krishnan, the Executive Director of Talent Management, talked about how DBS is investing $20 million to implement a Digify programme to develop future-ready, digital bankers. It’s a programme that’s not just for DBS staff in the tech roles, but for all staff.

All these changes that DBS put in place paid off, with DBS now ranked the highest amongst banks in customer satisfaction surveys. It also successfully helped its customers to save 250 million hours. Also, small startups like Activpass, established startups like PropertyGuru, and even large corporations like McDonald’s use its APIs and sandbox environment to develop features so that DBS customers can live more, bank less.

And of course, back in 2013, the bank had already claimed its spot at the top in terms of customer experience. No longer “Damn Bloody Slow”!

By 2013, DBS was already topping the chart of Customer Experience (via)


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Lessons equally applicable to us

Just as banks feel the need to constantly change in order to meet the challenges of disruption, so must we, as individuals, constantly learn and develop new skills.

Emphasising this point, Mr Desmond Choo, Director of the Youth Development Unit at NTUC, in his opening address of the learning journey, highlighted that rapid changes in technology and the economy will very quickly render the things we learnt in school irrelevant.

So if we don’t keep up, we will soon find that that we can’t contribute at the workplace.

Mr Desmond Choo, Director of NTUC’s Youth Development Unit, reminded the participants of the learning journey that NTUC is not just a supermarket. In fact, other than its stable of social enterprises, the labour movement’s focus now includes working hard to prepare the Singaporean workforce of today for tomorrow’s jobs (via)


Mr Choo pointed out that that’s why NTUC’s focus now includes working hard to prepare the Singaporean workforce of today for tomorrow’s jobs.

To do that, NTUC employs different strategies and organises different events. Events like the learning journey to DBS Asia X allow youths who are about to join or have just joined the workforce to experience a different form of job search. It allows participants to find out more about companies like DBS, learn about the culture, and meet some of its employees first before applying for the job.

But the events and efforts by NTUC (or any other organisation for that matter) will only be useful if we make the effort too. Thankfully, it seems that youths are getting the message. The last few learning journeys organised by Young NTUC (including the ones to DBS Asia X and Grab) were oversubscribed. That’s a good sign and bodes well for Singapore’s future.

(Featured image via DBS FB)

By Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!