Asia's best bank 2019: DBS
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Asia's best bank 2019: DBS

Awards for Excellence 2019

regains the best bank in Asia award it first won three years ago, for showing how innovation, digital vision and creative thinking can not only sound good but also translate into record profits and resilient margins.

The Singapore-based bank has long been a role model for banks seeking to undertake a digital transformation, and has attempted it on a scale rarely seen at an international bank, with root-and-branch disruption from the front office through the plumbing to the data centres, and at every level from the branch teller to the chief executive.

But DBS’s particular skill has been to undertake such a journey while remaining consistently profitable, losing no momentum while reinventing itself. The 2018 full year brought a 28% increase in net profit to a record high of S$5.63 billion ($4.12 billion), with a decade-high return on equity of 12.1%.

ROE is one of the visible metrics for the improvements that digital innovation has made to the bottom line. DBS can go further – it articulates precisely the difference in return from a digital-savvy as opposed to a more traditional customer – but the mechanics of it are pretty simple: digitalization drops the cost-to-income ratio (currently 44%, but chief executive Piyush Gupta is aiming much lower) while making it easier to acquire new customers, which boosts the top line even if margins fall in a digitalized business.

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