DBS Case Study

March 05, 2023


DBS is fighting to stay relevant in the second phase of its future-ready digital transformation. As an established incumbent, the bank faces challenges from emerging fintech companies. In order to adapt to the significant changes in the banking industry—driven primarily by technological advancements—DBS is embarking on strategic shifts in its operational paradigms.

Facing the Disruptors

DBS is threatened by the influx of startups and major technology companies entering the fintech space. The potential for disruption is hard to quantify, forcing the bank to proactively engage in a second phase of digital transformation. Piyush Gupta, DBS CEO, has aptly said, "The second stage was tougher because no one knew what a digital bank should look like."

A New Approach to Partnerships

Previously, DBS viewed its external relationships as vendor-oriented, where the bank set the terms. Now, DBS aims to collaborate closely with partners in order to learn and grow together. This partnership mindset is central to the bank's digital transformation strategy. One exemplary partnership has been with Microsoft, which has played an essential role in DBS's digital journey.

Focus on Collaboration

The focus is not just on products, but also on people and processes. Both DBS and Microsoft have invested in building a strong collaborative environment, breaking down silos, and learning from each other. Such collaborative efforts go beyond mere service provision; they also focus on human aspects, highlighting that a good partnership is crucial for success.

Expanding Horizons

DBS has actively sought partnerships in new markets like Indonesia and India. It has launched property and electricity marketplaces in Singapore, working with existing players to avoid duplicative efforts. Through these innovative partnerships, DBS continues to make strides in its digital transformation journey.

Building the Foundation

DBS understands that its future must be built on a robust technological foundation. After significant investments in basic IT infrastructure during the first phase, the bank is now poised to accelerate its market entry with a stable platform. Beyond mere digitization, the bank is re-architecting its backend systems to enable true digital transformation.

Embracing New Work Cultures

DBS envisions itself as a 22,000-person startup, nurturing a culture that emphasizes speed and agility. The workforce of the future will focus more on flexible and agile practices, and metrics will go beyond traditional financial measures to include indicators that drive digital transformation.

Leadership and Strategy

CEO Piyush Gupta has championed digital transformation through a top-down approach. He has incorporated digital KPIs into scorecards and encourages a culture of experimentation and risk-taking. Gupta understands the need for a shift in the organizational culture and works diligently to instill this change throughout DBS.

Preparing for the Future

DBS began its digital transformation journey in 2014, gradually evolving into a technology company that offers financial services. It has shifted its focus towards hiring more engineers than bankers and has been recognized as the world's best digital bank multiple times by Euromoney. With its robust infrastructure, DBS is well-prepared to adapt to future technologies and continue offering innovative banking solutions.

By adopting a partnership mindset, focusing on collaboration, and building a solid technological foundation, DBS is positioning itself strongly for the future. Its transition from a traditional bank to a technology-driven financial institution exemplifies how companies can adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing landscape.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn