Commentary

DBS must bulk up or lose fintech turf in South-east Asia

DBS Bank's branch in Chongqing, China. Tech companies want to deal with banks that can wrap their traditional offering of cash management with services that are important to end-customers, such as simple user interfaces, says the writer. PHOTO: DBS
DBS Bank's branch in Chongqing, China. Tech companies want to deal with banks that can wrap their traditional offering of cash management with services that are important to end-customers, such as simple user interfaces, says the writer.PHOTO: DBS

With bigger international rivals snagging prime deals in its backyard, bank needs to step up its digital presence

South-east Asia's largest lender happens to be its most tech-savvy. Why then is Singapore's DBS Group Holdings missing out on some of the region's hottest deals in digital banking?

In recent years, technology has played a large role in the bank's profitable pivot away from trade financing to corporate cash management. One of its application programming interfaces that hooks up with customers' software - it has some 500 of them - allows merchants on Indonesian e-retailer Bukalapak.com to get paid in real time. The same technology allows drivers at ride-hailing company Gojek to get fares credited from their app wallets into bank accounts. But though DBS Bank is the most aggressive of Singapore's three home-grown banks, bigger international rivals are capturing prime deals in its backyard. The No. 1 challenger is Citigroup.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2019, with the headline 'DBS must bulk up or lose fintech turf in South-east Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe