Digital to make banking joyful

Reported by: |Updated: November 25, 2016

Piyush Gupta, group CEO, DBS Bank, outlines his 3-year effort to completely digitize the bank and how the effort paid off with better financial performance and shareholder value, increased customer satisfaction and higher employee engagement

Brian Pereira: DBS Bank has been named ‘World’s Best Digital Bank’ by Euromoney. What are the things that got you the global recognition?

Piyush Gupta believes that harnessing the digital opportunity can help the bank protect its postition in core markets
Piyush Gupta
believes that harnessing the digital opportunity can help the bank protect its position in core markets

Piyush Gupta: DBS Bank has been acknowledged as Asia’s best bank because in recent years, we’ve demonstrated an ability to deliver multiple stakeholder outcomes. Since 2009, we’re not just doing better in terms of our financial performance and shareholder metrics; customer satisfaction has also improved tremendously. In addition, our employee engagement scores are now much higher. Last year, our employee engagement score placed us at the 96th percentile of all companies surveyed globally by Aon Hewitt.

On digital, we’ve spent the last three years immersed in this agenda. On the technology front, we have made efforts to completely digitize the bank. On the culture front, we have made good headway in creating a ‘fintech-like’ workforce that is consumed with re-imagining the customer experience – one that is simple, seamless and complete.

In awarding us the World’s Best Digital Bank award, Euromoney had said: “Leaders in digital banking talk about the difference between digitizing aspects of a bank and creating a truly digital financial institution. DBS is doing this better than any other bank. 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.”

Can you talk about innovation in your bank? What is your vision?

Our innovation agenda or the embracing of new digital technologies (mobile, social, and big data) is not something we pursue as an end in itself. Instead, our vision is to make banking joyful for customers. To do this, we place ourselves in our customers’ shoes, focus on their needs and ensure that we know what the real ‘customer job to be done’ is.  We believe that embedding ourselves in the customer journey and embracing digital form a potent combination will make banking increasingly simple and seamless.

What is the digital agenda of the bank? You’ve spent 3 years working on it. What are the accomplishments?

We believe that harnessing the digital opportunity can not only help us protect our position in our core markets of Singapore and Hong Kong, it can also be a game changer to help extend our reach into the larger geographies. By harnessing the power of technology and the prevalence of smart mobile devices, we can reach customers anywhere and anytime.

Over the past three years, we have made efforts to completely digitize the bank – such as using SOA and an API framework to eliminate paper and provide instant fulfilment. On the culture front, as I said earlier, we are making good headway in creating a ‘fintech-like’ workforce that is consumed with re-imagining the customer experience – one that is simple, seamless and complete.

What makes the bank unique? In a crowded market place, how do you break away from the clutter?

We are an Asian-focused bank, seeking to make banking joyful for our customers. We also marry the professionalism of a best-in-class bank with an understanding of Asia’s cultural nuances.  Our understanding of Asia, as well as our ‘goldilocks’ size – big enough to matter yet nimble enough to move quickly – have enabled us to respond quickly to market opportunities and threats and offer value to customers.

What are the unique products and services that you offer? What about premium products?

We believe Digibank, which we launched earlier this year, is a ground-breaking, one-of-a-kind offering. It is India’s first mobile-only bank and is completely paperless, signature-less and branchless. It features an AI-powered virtual assistant, which one can converse with like a friend or butler in natural language. It has no legacy and its efficient cost-income ratio allows us to pass on benefits to customers. Lastly, it can offer all of the above while being on the cutting edge in terms of tech robustness, reliability and safety.

DBS is planning to set up a digital innovation lab in India in addition to a technology center that it will have in Hyderabad. The bank has mentioned technologies like augmented reality, IoT and AI as the core topics. Can you outline how these would get to be integrated into the banking platform?

We are planning to set up a technology innovation center in India to explore new applications based on emerging technologies to make banking as seamless as possible. The India center would be our third after Singapore and Hong Kong.

Digibank, India’s first mobile-only bank, helps customers bank completely digitally with in-built features like biometrics and artificial intelligence. For example, customers have their queries answered through chatting with an AI-powered virtual assistant. DBS Home Connect app allows homebuyers to find out the valuation of a property just by pointing their mobile device at it – an innovation based on augmented reality technology. The bank also leverages big data to anticipate when our ATMs in Singapore will run out of cash. We plan to introduce these use cases in India in future, along with the applications that will be developed in the upcoming innovation lab.

How would you be entering the mobile wallet space? Will it be an extension of Digibank?

Today, customers of Digibank have the option to open an e-wallet within 90 seconds or a savings account, offering up to 7% interest from the first rupee.

Will the launch of Digibank mean curtailment of branch banking?

Not at all.  Today, DBS has 12 branches in India and we are keen to expand our distribution network further.  We have applied for a wholly owned subsidiary status in India and will add 50-75 branches over the next 5 years once we have the approval to convert. With the branches, we will be able to do more in the SME, transaction banking and wealth management space.