Lui Su Kian, chief operating officer, and P’ing Lim, head of deposits and secured lending business, DBS Consumer Banking Group, discuss how the bank is redefining the retail and digital finance experience of its customers
Foo Boon Ping
May 22, 2018 | Foo Boon Ping
- DBS has been leveraging on technology to create a comprehensive ecosystem to provide a seamless online onboarding and transaction experience to its customers
- The bank recognises that as the lifestyle of consumers becomes more digital, it has to transform and embed itself into the customer journey to stay relevant
- The total integration of such values across the entire DBS organisation and its immersion into customer experience is one of the most visible parts of its transformation
DBS and POSB are household names in Singapore. Together they serve almost the entire population and account for more than half of the retail deposits market share in the country.
In the past year, the bank has displayed a better rate of return on equity and operating margin as compared to its rivals in the industry. Because it focused on digitising its operations and processes, the bank’s cost-to-income ratio increased in 2017—but was much smaller than its peers.
DBS has been leveraging on technology to create a comprehensive ecosystem to provide a seamless online onboarding and transaction experience to its customers. The bank has put together platforms such as “FasTrack”, “Home Connect” and “POSB Smart Buddy” as part of its ecosystem-building strategy. FasTrack is an embedded mobile solution that aims to enhance the experience of customers, while Home Connect is a mortgage application that helps home buyers make informed decisions on the go. Meanwhile, POSB Smart Buddy is one of the world’s first in-school wearable tech savings and payments programmes. To support Singapore’s national agenda on becoming a Smart Nation, the bank has also worked with schools to introduce digital payments and inculcate savings habits through the POSB Smart Buddy programme. Since its launch in August 2017, the bank has already issued more than 15,000 wearables, while the number of participating schools have doubled from 19 to over 40.
Customers are going digital
The bank recognises that as the lifestyle of consumers becomes more digital, it has to transform and embed itself into the customer journey to stay relevant. Over the last three years, DBS has invested heavily into transforming this journey.
When the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) relaxed regulations on banks to participate in auxiliary businesses, DBS was among the first to act by launching its own automobile and property marketplaces.
Lui Su Kian, chief operating officer, DBS Consumer Banking Group
“We were not going into the car business. We made ourselves invisible. We have embedded ourselves in the journey,” said Lui Su Kian, chief operating officer, DBS Consumer Banking Group. The same desire to embed into the customer journey drove the design of the POSB Smart Buddy programme, which allows a child to make payments in school (e.g. canteen and bookstore) and at selected merchants. It also allows check on balances by tapping on the balance terminals in schools and track fitness levels via the POSB Smart Buddy watch.
“This is the digital age, and kids are digitally savvy. We wanted to inculcate saving habits by gamifying it. We added a digital payment function so that it can be used in the canteen,” added P’ing Lim, DBS’ head of deposits and secured lending business.
This was at a time when the Singaporean government had just launched its Smart Nation initiative to enable individuals and businesses to enhance their experience through digital innovation.
P’ing Lim, head of deposits and secured lending business, DBS Consumer Banking Group
“We adopted the ‘agile’ methodology, created cross-functional teams, co-located them, and gave them four months to come up with a minimum viable product (MVP). We brought people from various teams, put them in a room, and told them ‘four months, come up with something’,” Lim elaborated.
The programme was piloted in February 2016 and received feedback that allowed the team to make significant enhancements, including a second MVP.
“We took the feedback and went on to create the second MVP. We developed an accompanying app to allow parents to give an allowance, and a step tracker, so kids can track how many steps they have taken in a day and how much time they have spent at recess. The app also informs parents what their children have eaten. This facilitates meaningful conversations on adopting a balanced diet. At the same time, they can talk about savings and financial literacy,” Lim enthused.
“We have incorporated features beyond payments to include the features and functions that the schools, the parents, the canteen vendors are keen to have so that the product can benefit the whole ecosystem. We even have APIs to share data with the Health Promotion Board. It can then produce reports for the schools on how they compare with the national average concerning health matters,” she added.
The bank hopes to eventually make the programme available to all 190 primary schools in the country. POSB has also just launched the Smart Senior Pilot Programme based on similar innovation for payments and health.
“We will see what else we can do with other segments in the community. POSB has a legacy of serving the community, beyond school-going kids,” Lim added.
Live more, bank less
DBS’ digital transformation journey started in 2010 with a customer centric instead of a technology driven objective.
“Our group chief executive officer, Piyush Gupta, believes that everything we do should revolve around the customers. It was then that we launched our Respectful, Easy to deal with and Dependable (RED) service values, where we put the customer at the centre of everything we do. It doesn’t change as we transform from a traditional to a digital bank. It’s just that new tools are made available for the customers and ourselves to make the entire journey joyful and easy for both the customers and ourselves,” Lui explained.
The total integration of such values across the entire DBS organisation and its immersion into customer experience is perhaps one of the most visible parts of its transformation.
“It is an end-to-end engagement. We have cross-functional teams who bring different expertise. We have daily stand-ups (short focused meetings) to share updates and we can cover for each other over time. We test a lot. We create the first MVP very quickly, so if we need to fail, we fail fast and we move on. If we need to tweak, we tweak fast and move on. It is an ongoing cycle of learning and improvement,” explained Lui.
She also emphasised that at the top of the organisation, “having a common vision is important.” “We want our customers to live more and bank less. Every time we look at an opportunity or problem statement, we approach it in that very systematic manner,” she added.
As it continues its digital transformation journey, the bank also recognised that with new technologies like application programming interfaces (APIs) and the cloud, and the amount of data that are now available, it is possible to create very meaningful ecosystems with likeminded partners.
Make banking invisible
The litmus test of its efforts to make banking joyful for customers and embed the bank’s services into their everyday experiences is oddly the question “Are we invisible?”, said Lui.
“Every time you book a car ride, you order food, or you do online grocery shopping, how can we be a part of that journey and so embedded, that the customer do not have to think about it?” she asked.
Despite the level of urbanisation in Singapore, the branch network continues to remain an important channel for many customers. And they remain the most visible manifestation of banks. The challenge is how to make the bank “invisible”.
“We continue to transform the way we serve our customers through the branch network. A lot of the services are now fully automated. Customers can self-serve at most of the machines and kiosks that we have. When they need assistance, our staff are ready to help. One of the latest initiatives we have launched is the video teller machine (VTM). It will transform the way our customers interact with us inside the bank. Customers can order debit card and digital tokens, and get them instantly at the branch,” said Lui.
While branches and branch-based services remain “visible”, newer technologies such as VTMs are giving the customers the same level of convenience and seamless experience.
Keywords: customer experience
, consumer banking