DBS rolling out 24/7, self-service banking at a third of its branches

DBS' new Takashimaya branch boasts features such as video teller machines, and also offers services targeted at businesses. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - South-east Asia's largest bank DBS will transform at least a third of its branches by rolling out 24/7, self-service banking options and enabling easier access to financial planning tools in the next 12 to 18 months.

DBS customers can conduct more complex transactions, such as replacing their debit card, outside normal banking hours at these revamped branches.

Digital ambassadors and wealth planning managers will also be stationed at the branches to help customers with their banking and financial planning needs.

DBS, which operates 64 branches here, last month opened a new 2,000 sq ft branch at Takashimaya Shopping Centre - its first branch to offer a wider range of personalised banking services, with more space for safe distancing.

It is also the bank's first branch to share a space with a retail store - Guardian pharmacy.

DBS' efforts come amid a broader shift towards digital banking that has been fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of monthly average visits per branch fell by 15 per cent in June to October, compared with before the pandemic.

More than 95 per cent of regular DBS banking transactions, such as fund transfers, remittances and bill payments, are now done digitally through mobile or online banking.

DBS Singapore country head Shee Tse Koon said the pandemic has irrevocably changed the way most people do their banking and catalysed further transformation to cater to these shifting needs.

"Our new branches will therefore complement our digital banking services to provide what we call a 'phygital' banking experience that retains our human touch in the form of face-to-face assistance and consultations," said Mr Shee.

The Takashimaya branch boasts features such as video teller machines, where customers can replace and apply for debit or credit cards, and seek help from a bank teller via video, as well as branch teller machines that allow them to deposit and withdraw cash in denominations starting from $2. Two to three digital ambassadors will be stationed at the branch.

It also offers services targeted at businesses. These include machines where businesses can deposit their earnings which will be counted and put into their accounts.

Like its co-tenant Guardian, the Takashimaya branch also has a "pharmacy'' that offers advice on building financial health.

DBS branch service manager Christine Tan demonstrating the use of the Video Teller Machine, on Nov 12, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Its "financial pharmacy" digital touchscreen board allows customers to browse financial planning tips. These bits of information are visually represented through icons of health and beauty items on the screen.

For example, an icon of a jar labelled "forever young" leads customers to a page that explains the importance of early insurance planning.

DBS consumer banking group head Jeremy Soo told The Straits Times that he sees potential for more collaboration between the bank and retailers in sharing physical space.

"Businesses in retail, F&B (food and beverage) and hospitality have been impacted by Covid and need to find creative ways to use (excess) space for their customer journeys."

He added that standalone branches will still exist, but the deployment of manpower can be re-calibrated based on demand. "We can increase automation and increase or dial down the number of digital ambassadors based on customer demographic and branch location."

Branch service manager and digital ambassador Christine Tan, who has been working at DBS for 40 years, said digitalisation has made banking more convenient for staff and customers.

Ms Tan, who was previously a customer service executive, said: "We are restricted less by counters and can move around freely to help customers. More time is spent at the counters helping those who have more complex requests and really need personal attention."

DBS is not alone in its efforts to transform its physical branches. Since 2018, OCBC Bank has reduced its number of tellers by half and reskilled them to take on digital ambassador roles.

More than 90 per cent of financial transactions are now done digitally or at smart ATMs that can process 90 per cent of all counter services.

"This has allowed us to migrate more than one-third of over-the-counter services out of the branches compared to five years ago," said Mr Bob Ng, OCBC's head of personal and premier banking for Singapore.

United Overseas Bank in 2018 opened a branch in Tampines 1 mall to cater to young professionals and young families. The branch did away with traditional teller counters, in exchange for self-service machines and spaces for financial planning conversations.

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