When it comes to drawing up an image of banks, bankers historically have had quite a standardized approach. The focus is on safety and security keeping trespassers at bay. Easier said than done in a highly digitized world, where even the biggest of banks have to battle whiz kids who have the potential to hack their firewalls. Needless to say, it’s a tough job to service a digitally-empowered customer. The challenge therefore is to embrace the new world order of technology and to compete with non-bank technology players who are not only allowing their customers to shop online but also to pay their bills and invest.
Banks today are forced to up their ante. A unique banking experience which leads to customer loyalty is the ultimate goal. Constant innovation through mobile apps and wallets with a proactive approach is the how DBS has changed the way banking is done to a large extent. “Transformation” rather than “disruption” is the mantra that Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS advocates.
“People talk about disruption, but the need of the hour is to bring about a transformation which implies that the incumbent can bring about a change...All of us in the financial services industry have an opportunity to lead the transformation, to make a real change in the customer experience.”Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS
Gupta and his team have taken transformation to a whole new level. Change through digital innovations in technology must start on the inside before it is up for consumer’s consumption. Change starts within which is why DBS is keen on driving a digital mindset among their employees.
To test the DBS has built “hackathons” into their talent development programme. These hackathons serve as a sandbox for DBS employees to experiment like a startup, using lean methodologies and human centric designs to identify, act and utilize opportunities. They also give employees a unique opportunity to create prototypes alongside startups.
Through this, DBS aims to create the workforce of the future by grooming an entire generation of digitally minded leaders who can shape the future of banking through education, exposure and experimental learning. As David Gledhill, Head of Group Technology & Operations at DBS explains, “If we wish to remain relevant to our customers, our employees must embrace a culture of innovation and be intrapreneurs.”
Not only do hackathons benefit employees, they also benefit startups. Both parties learn and benefit from each other’s expertise and knowledge and create an atmosphere of mutually beneficial cultural exchange. As DBS sees it, bankers of the future are created by interacting with like-minded peers who are able to figure out business realities and can find real-world solutions to problems. The hackathons not just create leaders of tomorrow, some also result in the creation of products, the best of which are already in a stage of production.
Transformation as DBS clearly demonstrates is not a one-event wonder; it is a “deep and wide programme” to innovate and engage as DBS’ chief innovation officer Neal Cross puts it. Apart from running hackathons, the bank also organizes “imaganariums” that are theme-based events which focus on a particular area. For instance, there were events focused on cracking bitcoin passwords and coming up with crowdsourcing ideas.
Numerous efforts are being made at DBS to drive innovation deep into the culture and build an entire cadre of employees who are preparing for the day when the bank will be completely electronic and paperless and will not require any physical branches at all. DBS is ready to put its money where its mouth is and is now looking to place hard revenue targets against innovative projects that will be driven by DBS employees.
Neal Cross sums it up with a sense of pride. “I am salesman wanting to build a culture of innovation. And innovation as far as I am concerned has little to do with technology and more to do with people and behaviour.” Designing programmes that bring out the best among the talent pool at DBS is a way of life at the bank and it seems to have stirred up things a fair bit with its emphasis on innovation and building a workplace of the future.