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Overcoming bland banking

The First step in building a strong bank is to have a strong, defined franchise. And each of Singapore’s banks can claim some success in one or two areas. But none has a really strong franchise worthy of a domestic, let alone regional, leader. And this is largely the result of complacent neglect of customer needs.

       
Peter Seah

The First step in building a strong bank is to have a strong, defined franchise. Each of Singapore's banks can claim some success in one or two areas. Keppel TatLee is the strongest in small- and medium-enterprise banking, DBS has the most account holders and dominates the local capital markets, UOB has done well in unit trusts, OUB in stockbroking, OCBC in insurance through its Great Eastern subsidiary. But none has a really strong franchise worthy of a domestic, let alone regional, leader. And this is largely the result of complacent neglect of customer needs.


The consumer business offers the best example. Each Singaporean has, on average, three, if not four, bank accounts. Part of the reason is that banking services are free. The banks have historically done nothing to stop their account holders from shopping around.


DBS had a retail franchise before it merged with the state savings bank, POSBank, in 1998.



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