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Asia's best digital bank 2018: DBS

Awards for Excellence 2018

It is a big ask to win any Euromoney award for three years consecutively, but DBS’s leadership in the digital realm is unarguable.

It was best illustrated in November by its move to quantify the financial benefits of going digital in terms of the return on equity (among other things) of a digitally active versus a traditional customer. No other bank ha s so clearly articulated what tech means for profitability. A host of analysts promptly upgraded the stock and it gained 4% in a day purely on the strength of this metric. It is a large part of the reason the bank’s market capitalization rose 44% in 2017, making it the most valuable company in southeast Asia.

The move was no surprise to anyone who has followed DBS’s digital progress in recent years, guided by the tireless enthusiasm of chief executive Piyush Gupta. The digital agenda is ingrained in everyone from business heads to junior staff, but what is more impressive is DBS’s ability to demonstrate what it all means for the bank.

Piyush Gupta

So, for example, through 2017, the bank’s technology, hardware, data centres, network management and app development became 85% insourced, meaning DBS can justifiably see itself as a tech company as well as a bank – and one that owns its tech. At the same time, it has pushed legacy technology to cloud-native technology and by the end of 2017 had 66% of its applications running in the cloud, dramatically reducing infrastructure costs.

Yes, it has APIs in abundance and embeds itself in customers’ lives through apps and digital partnerships, but that is not a differentiator – everyone smart does that. But not everyone has put 15,000 people through programmes designed to foster a startup culture or launched mobile-only banks in both India and Indonesia or built an online simulation tool for treasurers in Asia.

One thing that comes through in conversations with Gupta is a sense of healthy fear; that the imperative for digitization is survival in a changing world. Harnessing this sense of impending doom for banking has been one of the great motivators for DBS’s success.

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