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3 Things Investors Should Know About DBS Group Holdings Ltd’s Digital Transformation

DBS Group Holdings Ltd (SGX: D05), or DBS in short, is one of the three major banks based out of Singapore. As a leading financial institution, DBS is currently facing threats from new technologies such as blockchain, crypto currency and Artificial Intelligence, putting its existing business model at risk.  Moreover, with new fintech companies constantly improving on their capabilities, investors might wonder whether the incumbents can remain competitive.

The good news for investors is that DBS is not standing still either. It has invested heavily in new technologies to remain relevant. Here are three things that investors should know about DBS’s digital transformation from its 2018 annual report.

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To start with, DBS has won the “World Best Digital Bank” award twice in the last three years. Here’s what the CEO, Piyush Gupta, shared in the annual report:

“We have been named “World’s Best Digital Bank” twice in the past three years, so I guess we have done a few things right! Perhaps our most important achievement has been in recognising that a digital transformation requires both hardware and heartware to change technology as well as culture.”

To win such award twice in three years would suggest that DBS has done many things correctly. One of that might be in handling the cultural aspect of its transformation.

Culture change

One of the most important aspects to address before attempting any material organisational change is to handle the human part of the change. Here, Gupta shared his thoughts on how the bank approached it:

“Our culture change journey began in earnest in 2014, when we decided that we had to learn how to operate like a startup. We have tried to build a culture that is customer driven, data obsessed, open to experimentation, and that embraces an agile way of working. We have also tried hard to become a learning organisation, where people are constantly seeking to reinvent themselves.

To deepen our startup culture, we conducted over 1,000 experiments involving 17,000 employees. Even our hiring process took on a new spin, as did other activities such as marketing or audit. We partnered startups, corporates and universities to develop innovative mindsets to tackle business challenges. The goal: to reimagine banking and to make ourselves simpler, faster and better.”

In all, the bank decided to embrace the start-up culture to ensure that its transformation is successful. And one of the outcome of such cultural change is the birth of Digibank.


Digibank is India’s first mobile-only bank, which allows customers to set up a bank account in minutes in a branchless, signatureless and paperless way. Again, Gupta shared some useful milestones in the annual report:

“In two years, we amassed 2.3 million customers and 650,000 savings accounts, while requiring just a fifth of the headcount needed by a traditional brick-and-mortar approach. Based on our experience in India, we introduced digibank in Indonesia in 12 months instead of 24!”

A Foolish conclusion

We are living in an era where disruption risk is relevant to almost all business models. The banking industry is clearly a prime target of new disrupters. The good news here is that DBS is taking an active role to remain relevant to its customers, now and for the future. Though such efforts do not guarantee results, investors can be sure that the bank is not going to give up without a fight.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Lawrence Nga doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned. Motley Fool has a recommendation for DBS Group Holdings Ltd.