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DBS: The Rise Of Invisible Banking

Have you heard of DBS bank? Not many have.

It is no surprise really, as its mission is to make banking invisible. A feat it is well on the way to achieving.

Damn Bloody Slow

The bank was formed in 1968 as the Development Bank of Singapore and is now known as DBS.

It offers retail, corporate and investment services to 7 million customers throughout South East Asia.

10 years ago, locals in Singapore would have suggested the letters DBS stood for “damn bloody slow”. Since then DBS has transformed itself into a digital leader and sets an example to all in the world of banking.

In 2016, Euromoney awarded DBS the title of the World’s Best Digital Bank.

“Leaders in digital banking talk about the difference between digitising 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.” - Clive Horwood, Editor of Euromoney Magazine

Joyful Banking

DBS’s vision is to “Make Banking Joyful”.

It aims to become a 22,000 person startup with a focus on speed and innovation as key differentiators.

In 2009, DBS recognised legacy technology was holding them back and invested heavily in cloud computing, micro-service architectures, open source, APIs and machine learning. This now provides the technology backbone that enables a truly digital bank.

A Culture Of Experimentation

Since 2015 DBS have launched over 1,000 experiments across the bank to create a culture of innovation leading to a number of new experiences and opportunities for DBS and its customers.

Innovations have included:

  • State of the art mobile applications for customers to engage with bank services online
  • The launch of India’s first digital only bank with no paper, signatures or branches.
  • Advanced use of machine learning keeps back office staff numbers to a minimum.
  • Wearable technology to allow school children to pay for food.
  • A personal mobile wallet
  • Bank senior leaders participating in hackathons with startups

Digital Rewards

Transforming to a digital bank has helped DBS achieve some amazing results;

  • 5.2 Million customers using online and mobile services
  • 60% of SME customer open their accounts online
  • Digitally engaged customers generating 2x more revenue than other customers
  • Last to first placed in customer satisfaction scores
  • Profits up from 1.5BN (2010) to 4.2BN (2016) Singapore $

Invisible Banking

DBS recognises that people’s lives don’t revolve around banking.

Their view is that to make banking truly joyful, then it needs to become invisible.

It believes that the future of banking relies on building an ecosystem of partnerships to improve customer journeys like buying a house, dealing with loss or making a purchase.

Going The Extra Mile

This week DBS has cemented its position as a digital leader by launching over 150 developer APIs that go way beyond the Open Banking API offerings from any other bank.

This will help DBS strengthen the ecosystem it has created and provide improved experiences for DBS customers and partners.

Invisible Banking For All

Most banks claim to be on the digital transformation journey.

However, winning innovation awards, agile training certificates for 1,000s of staff and photographs featuring senior managers with hackathon winners does not equate to a digital bank.

Indeed, most are simply adding more complexity on top of already strained systems and staff.

This will ultimately increase cost, reduce agility and weaken competitive positioning.

As DBS has shown, transformation requires long term thinking, risk taking and excellent execution.

Time may already be running out for banks that have not already figured this out. The good news for them is that they too can achieve the feat of invisibility by simply disappearing altogether.


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