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How DBS Became the ‘World’s Best Bank’?

Summary:
Euromoney has named DBS Bank as the best bank in the world for 4th year in a row. Vinika Devasar Rao, Executive Director of the INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute writes on what makes DBS as world’s best bank. The main reason is how DBS managed its digital transformation: Part of DBS’s success is built on its creativity in overcoming digital transformation challenges that other organisations struggle with. Two out of three digital transformations fail at least in part because executives underestimate the project’s scope and impact. DBS’s top executives decided right from the start that emerging technologies and use of data had to be incorporated throughout the bank, with alignment across all divisions. The transformation quickly bore fruit. First, DBS dramatically reduced the

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Euromoney has named DBS Bank as the best bank in the world for 4th year in a row.

Vinika Devasar Rao, Executive Director of the INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute writes on what makes DBS as world’s best bank.

The main reason is how DBS managed its digital transformation:

Part of DBS’s success is built on its creativity in overcoming digital transformation challenges that other organisations struggle with. Two out of three digital transformations fail at least in part because executives underestimate the project’s scope and impact. DBS’s top executives decided right from the start that emerging technologies and use of data had to be incorporated throughout the bank, with alignment across all divisions.

The transformation quickly bore fruit. First, DBS dramatically reduced the time-to-market of new products. For example, in 2016 it launched the first digital-only bank in India through a mobile app that it fed with weekly updates. By the following year, the digibank had added more than a million customers.   

DBS also built ecosystem partnerships, an essential strategy in a hyper-connected world. Most recently, the bank teamed up with fintech firm Doxa to launch an automated payment solution for Singapore’s construction industry, which accounts for 4 percent of the country’s economy. It aims to help contractors improve cash flow management and cut costs by digitising paperwork and tracking payments automatically.

Thinking like techies and not bankers:

Transformations, however, are never easy. For DBS, an initial challenge was to start solving problems by thinking like “techies” rather than bankers. Its solution? Proclaim itself “a technology company delivering banking services” and benchmarking not against other banks but leading technology companies. To encourage employees to think like techies, and not just any techie but Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s famously customer-focused boss, DBS adopted the phrase, “What would Jeff do?”

Lords of the Rings Connection:

It also distilled lessons from leading technology companies with the catchy mnemonic “GANDALF”, after the wizard of The Lord of the Rings fame: G — use open-source software like Google; A — run software on Amazon’s cloud platforms; N — use data and automation at scale and personalise recommendations like Netflix; A — design systems as Apple does; L — push for continuous learning in the footsteps of LinkedIn; and F — focus on building communities like Facebook.  What about ‘D’? That’s for DBS, of course.

GANDALF helped inspire a new mindset for DBS’s digital and core technology transformation. The bank identified and adopted five key initiatives:

    • Shift from products to platform – substitute empowered teams with oversight of their own products for long-term projects replete with steering committees and bureaucracy
    • Develop high-performing agile teams – in pre-transformation DBS, business departments set the goals and technology played a supporting role. Now, both sides come to the table as equal partners with shared goals and plans
    • Automate everything – build, test and deploy systems faster
    • Design for modern systems – engineer technologies and build systems that are scalable, elastic and ready for experimentation by using the cloud
    • Organise for success – provide employees with the right tools and support to enable agility

Hmm..

Amol Agrawal
I am currently pursuing my PhD in economics. I have work-ex of nearly 10 years with most of those years spent figuring economic research in Mumbai’s financial sector.

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