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DBS Bank’s digital prowess weaves banking into pursuits that impact lives

With award-winning innovations, DBS has adapted its services for experiences that impact tech-savvy businesses, communities and consumers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 August, 2017, 9:18am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 August, 2017, 11:31am

Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports

It is an interesting time within Asia’s wealthy and technologically sharp financial sector. Developments in financial technology (fintech) are not just enhancing banking services, but replacing them completely. Retail financial services are being further digitised via mobile wallets and payment applications, while equity crowdfunding and online lending platforms provide access to private and alternative investment areas. It is a time beset with challenges, but it is also a time brimming with opportunities as banks scramble to adapt to the changing landscape.

Amidst the technological disruptions, DBS cements its position as a leading digital Asian bank and continues to enhance ways to serve and engage customers. With many award-winning innovations, DBS weaves banking into everyday life and adapts its services for experiences that impact a growing breed of tech-savvy businesses, communities and consumers.

“We embrace digitisation in a transformational way,” says Sebastian Paredes, CEO of DBS Bank (Hong Kong). “We continue to invest considerable resources to drive innovations in digital banking, with many notable examples of first-in-market and award-winning initiatives to effectively realise a seamless and joyful customer experience.”

As the first to win the Euromoney award for “World’s Best Digital Bank” in 2016, DBS has rolled out several trailblazing programmes in key markets, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, India and Indonesia.

One such initiative is the DBS Omni Credit Card Companion Mobile App, which features four major first-in-market innovations: Timeline shows notifications of every transaction instantly; personal finances can be effectively tracked via Budget and Insight; and InstaRedeem allows immediate redemption of cash rebates at merchants globally. DBS Omni is available for download on iOS and Android mobile devices.

Cutting-edge support for SMEs

Enabling customers to truly “live more, bank less”, DBS Hong Kong has launched a number of breakthrough services specifically designed for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In Hong Kong, the Meet Online business account opening service lets SMEs open accounts without ever having to set foot in the bank’s branches. Meet Online eliminates the hassle of scheduling face-to-face meetings. Instead, SME customers can meet with the bank’s relationship managers and complete the due diligence process through video conferencing.

Using tools such as FaceTime or WebEx video, courier services and other online platforms for account opening, DBS Hong Kong makes banking anywhere and anytime possible easily and conveniently.

“Meet Online enhances the account opening experience for SME customers,” says Alex Cheung, managing director and head of institutional banking group at DBS Bank (Hong Kong). “Everything can be done with ease anywhere and anytime, allowing customers to have more time to grow their business and to live more.”

We embrace digitisation in a transformational way
Sebastian Paredes, CEO, DBS Bank (Hong Kong)

The DBS BusinessClass programme was also rolled out to SME communities last year. Designed to help SMEs grow their business and expand their network, the programme, which includes the DBS BusinessClass mobile application, provides members with access to industry experts, investors, fellow entrepreneurs, and insightful news articles that foster business growth and success.

Through DBS BusinessClass, SME owners and entrepreneurs can reach out to potential partners and investors. Members can seek advice from one another through private or online discussions, and get instant feedback through the application’s chat functions. They also enjoy the privilege of taking part in exclusive events, such as roundtables, seminars and talks. Key learnings and ideas at each event are published on the mobile application for further discussion. DBS BusinessClass also acts as a bespoke data housekeeper where community managers curate, select and tag relevant news and articles for members daily.

“At the heart of the DBS BusinessClass programme is our commitment to shape the future of finance,” Paredes says. “We provide SMEs with the Asian network and digital edge to capitalise on business opportunities. Our customised and innovative solutions support sustainable SME growth.”

Reimagining banking

As part of its digital transformation, the bank embarked on a comprehensive and holistic mission to change the culture and mindset of its staff. As one of the first banks in the region to adopt human-centred design thinking, DBS exposed its employees to agile methodology and other digital concepts through customer journey workshops and hackathons held across Asia. The bank ran more than 1,000 experiments led by senior managers to collectively transform the overall DBS experience for customers and employees.

DBS continues to crowdsource ideas while building prototypes during hackathons to apply human-centred designs. With dedicated laboratories tasked to collect feedback from customers, the bank tests and deploys fintech solutions into live use cases following successful trials to improve competitiveness.

“The culture has changed enormously in the past few years,” Paredes says. “The change and digital transformation engine of the bank has started to feel more like a technology company than a traditional bank.”

Progressing towards a fintech future, DBS Hong Kong was the first bank in Hong Kong to launch a fintech-focused accelerator programme. Enabling startup success, DBS Accelerator creates opportunities for innovators across Asia and worldwide to transform the digital agenda by exploring collaborative junctures with the bank and embedding new fintech solutions in banks.

Now in its third year, the programme is a key go-to hub in Hong Kong. Housed in The Vault, a state-of-the-art 5,000 sq ft workspace in the heart of Wan Chai, the “always-on” accelerator programme hosts fintech start-ups year-round to continuously strengthen the bank’s transformational journey. Participating startups have access to vast resources and mentor support, and are guided through their business growth and development.

“With the success of the DBS Accelerator programme, we are excited to apply dynamic new ways to enhance risk management, cybersecurity and the digital customer journey,” Paredes says.

Last year, DBS launched India’s first mobile-only bank, digibank. A revolutionary offering, digibank brings together an entire suite of groundbreaking technologies that enable customers to enjoy a paperless, signature-less and branchless way of banking. Opening an account can be done effortlessly at an extensive network of outlets run by DBS partners across India. With no paperwork involved, customer authentication is done using the Aadhaar card, a biometrics-enabled identification card which has been issued to more than a billion Indians.

Banking the “Asian Way”

Recognised by industry peers and pundits for its leadership in the fastest growing region in the world, DBS has been named “Asia’s Best Bank” by The Banker, Euromoney, and IFR Asia. It has also been hailed as “Safest Bank in Asia” by Global Finance for eight consecutive years. At the forefront of leveraging digital technology to shape the future of banking, DBS is upbeat about developments in the region, such as China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.

China’s transition to a more open and market-based economy has unlocked opportunities for DBS. Driving the bank’s wealth management business remains a key objective. With Asia’s growing affluence, DBS is bolstering its wealth continuum model, where product and service offering platforms across the wealth segment are integrated to form a seamless customer experience that provides appropriate solutions at every stage of the wealth journey. The service targets customers with minimum investible assets of HK$1 million.

DBS acquired Société Générale’s private banking business in Asia in 2014 and is working towards completing the integration of ANZ’s wealth management and retail banking business in five markets across Asia. The transactions present a viable strategic fit given the bank’s growing wealth management franchise in Hong Kong and beyond. To further expand its position among affluent customers and SMEs, DBS also launched a 15-year regional life bancassurance partnership with Manulife.

“Growing our footprint in the region, we seek to boost business and investment flows between Asia and the rest of the world,” Paredes says.

As a bank that lives and breathes Asia, DBS upholds the “Asian Way of Banking” through five pillars. With Asian relationships, DBS builds strong bonds with customers, staff and the communities it interacts with. It nurtures and values relationships, and prides itself on standing by its customers in good and tough times.

DBS has the distinct advantage of having a growing presence in Asia’s key axes of growth – Greater China, Southeast Asia and South Asia. DBS is deeply rooted in the region, and its Asian connections enable it to serve customers seamlessly across multiple markets.

Imbibing Asian insights, DBS understands and appreciates diversity. Aware of the intricacies of doing business in the region, it is well-positioned to mobilise its knowledge of various markets, trends, languages and cultures in Asia to guide customers effectively.

With the origins of many modern-day inventions being traced back to Asia, DBS puts a premium on Asian innovation. The entrepreneurial spirit and values that drive Asia’s leading players also drive DBS as it develops products and services that fulfil customers’ evolving financial needs.

Respectful of customers’ needs and committed to looking for ways to provide better solutions, DBS exudes a service attitude that is markedly Asian.

“At the heart of Asian service is the humility to serve and the confidence to lead,” Paredes says. “We take this role seriously, and we believe we have a much broader purpose to enhance the communities we serve by creating long-term economic value through responsible banking.”