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Asiamoney best bank awards 2017: Singapore

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Award Winners:




Best domestic bank: DBS

After seven years as DBS boss, Piyush Gupta could be excused for scratching his head in frustration. In August, he brought home another record net profit for DBS of S$2.35 billion ($1.75 billion) for the first half of 2017. 

That was 4% more than analysts’ forecasts and enabled the bank to pay a 10% higher dividend to shareholders for the half. Net interest income was 3% higher at S$1.89 billion, loans were up by 6%, which cushioned softer margins. Fee income was at a record high and non-performing loans were at a manageable 1.5%. It all spoke to Gupta’s steady-as-you-go hand at the tiller of the state-controlled Singapore giant of more 22,000 staff. 

But what happened next? DBS shares fell 2% in the hours after the profit announcement amidst asset quality concerns that Gupta also (prudently) flagged. The shares would soon correct but the episode does not take away from DBS securing its top slot in Singapore banking; a 51% market share for retail savings accounts, and 29% share of the mortgage market. DBS leads in bancassurance with a 32% market share and is also Singapore’s largest credit and debit card issuer, with around five million cards in circulation. 

It’s also throwing its weight around the Asean region, going after a private banking market that traditional custodians like Julius Baer and Société Générale had retreated from, just as Indonesia teased out billions in a tax amnesty that DBS now has its eye on after big recent acquisitions in that space.

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Best corporate and investment bank: Credit Suisse

With a team of 60 bankers in Singapore covering equity and debt capital markets, along with mergers and acquisitions, Credit Suisse has again topped the tables for dealflow in the city-state. 

Led by Edwin Low, Credit Suisse’s 23 deals in the year to May 31 were the most of its international peers in both deal value and deals done. The bank advised on eight M&A deals, four in ECM and 11 DCM transactions.

In a diverse year, it advised state-owned Temasek Holdings in its $S2.6 billion acquisition of transport group SMRT Corp, handled Fullerton Health’s $175 million securities issue and stewarded state-owned ST Telemedia’s stake during Level 3 Communication’s $34 billion merger by CenturyLink.

Credit Suisse also placed Temasek’s $100 million stake in aviation logistics group SATS, Fincantieri Oil and Gas’ $100 million privatisation of Vard Holdings and SIIC Environment’s $124 million acquisition of Longjiang Environmental in China. 

Importantly in top-down Singapore, Credit Suisse’ connections with Singapore Inc are tight. The Swiss bank boasts that it is the only bank to have dealt with both the state’s Temasek and the Government Investment Corp in this same year

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Best international bank: Citi

Citi’s Singapore group of offshoots reported combined profits of more than $S800 million ($594 million) for the calendar year 2016. In investment banking, Citi Singapore got 14 deals away in the year to March 31, six in M&A deals worth $8 billion, five big equity deals to raise $2.3 billion and three debt-raisings totalling $2 billion.

In markets and securities services, Citi traded foreign exchange worth $3.12 trillion through 2016-17 for 1500 forex clients in Singapore, to lead the market. 

It was busy in stocks too, where the bank handled $29 billion in equities volume for 340 active clients. In treasury, some $4 trillion moved through Citi, while in the commercial bank, Citi claims to have beaten revenue estimates by 20% in what became 24% better year on 2015-16. 

On the consumer side, Citi rolled out its global ‘developer portal’ that aimed to allow external tech developers to keep Citi’s technology offerings up to the minute. The bank received over 2,000 applications from developers to add to the app, while developing digital partnerships with local ride-share service Grab, the region’s Amazon-like Lazada Group, and Airbnb. Citi Pay, a global proprietary digital wallet, showed 40% year-on-year growth

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Best bank for SMEs: OCBC

True to its roots in seeding small businesses for Singapore’s diaspora communities, OCBC continues to go after emerging businesses on the island. Its Business Growth Account and Business Entrepreneur Account are its flagship products for start-ups and growing SMEs. 

For start-ups, OCBC’s Business First Loan allows new companies to access funding and build a credit profile as soon as six months after incorporation. OCBC says this ‘unusual’ product is ‘riskier’ but the one-day-approval Business First Loan has been well received, capturing the biggest share of Singapore’s micro loan market. 

In line with Singaporean government initiatives to support small businesses, OCBC has launched the Working Capital Loan, a collateral-free loan of up to S$300,000, targeted at businesses with two years of operation. The banks says that within just four months of the launch, it had received over 2000 applications to disburse over S$150 million in loans.

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Best bank for CSR: Citi

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 Amol Gupte, Citi
Citi nobly says that “citizenship is core” to its mission in Singapore. To that end, its has been a strong advocate of financial literacy and youth development programmes since 2002. 

Partnering with NGOs, government and educational institutions, Citi Singapore, run by Amol Gupte, has committed $S15.3 million to initiatives that have benefited students, youths and teachers across 80% of Singapore schools. The Citi Foundation says its “More than Philanthropy” approach leverages the expertise of Citi and its staff to community initiatives. The Citi Foundation disperses S$1.5 million every year. 

Citi Singapore has also been a keen supporter of a ‘pocket money’ fund to instil financial literacy among children, and a ‘budding artist’ fund that has focused on underprivileged children has received $3 million from Citi in recent years.

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Best digital bank: DBS

Digitise or perish, says DBS Bank, and Singapore’s largest bank has backed up its rhetoric by aiming to become an Asian fintech hothouse. It has renovated a 16,000 sq ft space on the island and called it DBS Asia X, filling it with funky ‘project pods’ and spaces to attract, as it describes, ‘the best and brightest FinTech startups’.

The bank says it has run over 1,000 fintech experiments since 2015, encouraging employees to regard themselves as ‘intrapreneurs’ rather than working for a bureaucracy with 22,000-plus staff in Singapore. It wants to be regarded as an incubator, incorporating its sharpest fintech output into its mainstream operations, while trying to nurturing new industry leaders as businesses in their own right. 

DBS’s online and mobile banking users tally more than 3 million and 2.2 million respectively, an increase of 3% and 69% respectively from 2015-2016. 

DBS’s PayLah! has become the fastest-growing personal mobile wallet in Singapore, with more than 450,000 users, 50% more than 2015/16. The bank boasts that it takes just three seconds to transfer money between DBS accounts, and no more than two hours to an account at another Singapore bank. 

“This year, we will further our digital agenda by continuing with the rollout of digibank, a mobile only bank, (and) pressing ahead with customer journeys and becoming more data-driven,” DBS says

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Best private bank: DBS

DBS has become a private banking power in southeast Asia, after an acquisition spree. Through 2016-17, it has integrated the regional private banking business it bought from Société Générale in 2014, and is doing the same with the ANZ wealth management businesses it purchased in 2016. 

DBS also extended its reach to London this year when got a licence to service UK and international clients, particularly with Asia-centric wealth products and services. The bank says its Dubai office is also on the up, as DBS taps into prospects for the Middle East and North Africa. Assets under management are now $119 billion, covering some 30,457 clients regarded as high net-worth. Since 2013, DBS claims to have delivered a consistently strong compound annual growth rate of 9% in AuM, while growing its client base by an annualised 13% over that time. 

Revenue has recorded a strong CAGR growth rate of 26% between 2012-2016. Non-interest income remains DBS Private’s key contributor to revenue growth, contributing 63% of overall revenue as at the first quarter of 2017. 

DBS has endeavoured to keep the product offerings to its clients fresh and innovative. In 2017, it introduced a range of fund and bond-linked instruments and launched two new private equity funds and a global Reit fund with Japan’s Nikko. 

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