Digital focus pays off for DBS

New opportunities are opening up in several areas and more business is coming in, it says

Many of DBS' customers use the digital form to engage with the bank, said Mr Piyush Gupta.
Many of DBS' customers use the digital form to engage with the bank, said Mr Piyush Gupta.

Focusing on digital is paying off for DBS Bank with new opportunities opening up in several areas and more business coming in, it said yesterday.

Chief executive Piyush Gupta said at the group's first-quarter briefing yesterday: "We've really invested a lot in the digital journey... Many of our customers continue to use the digital form to engage with us."

He cited DBS iWealth, a mobile app released in February for high-end consumer segments, as an example of the digital strategy.

Going digital has allowed the bank to expand its distribution and reach, said Mr Gupta.

"With that, we are really focusing on India for now, and are starting in Indonesia later this year. In India, we had a million customers in our first year, since we launched in April last year, to April this year.

"That's quite substantial. In the normal case with a brick-and-mortar strategy, that could have taken us years," he said, referring to DBS' mobile-only bank, which does away with forms and is said to be a "completely paperless, signatureless and branchless bank".

Mr Gupta added: "With most financial technology, we're not making money, so we continue to invest in marketing and booking the customers.

"They come with balances so our casa (current account, savings account) book on the back of these customers is beginning to build up quite nicely."

The next big opportunity is present even in places like Singapore and Hong Kong where DBS already has a good base of customers, said Mr Gupta .

"It's quite clear now if customers deal with us digitally, they do a lot more business with us. Data suggests to us that the digitally engaged customers are giving us almost twice - or in some cases more than 2.5 times - more business, than those who are not.

"We get greater customer penetration and a greater share of the customer's wallet if they deal with us digitally."

The digital path has also led to the "ability to create new products or ideas", said Mr Gupta, citing the remittance product DBS Remit.

It "allows us to digitally transfer money across 10 corridors in Asia now in three seconds, which has given us a significant revenue lift in that business".

These efforts are showing results, said Mr Gupta.

In wealth management, for example, DBS "has grown from No. 16 to five in Asia" over the years, to be the fifth-largest private bank in the Asia-Pacific, based on assets under management.

Also, the banking platform DBS has built - with a "fairly broad product suite" that covers everything global banks do - also helps, coupled with specialisation in Asian products.

However, Mr Gupta did note: "The nature of the wealth business in Asia is linked to the markets, to some extent. When the markets are bullish, people put a lot more money to work, and when they are bearish, people withdraw."

That said, he added that the consistency of its wealth management franchises have led to improvements every quarter.

Its plans include ramping up the digital movement in other countries as well.

DBS introduced phase one of its digital strategy in Indonesia last month.

Mr Gupta said the bank will release something "similar to the India offering, with a little bit more" in the second half of the year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2017, with the headline 'Digital focus pays off for DBS'. Print Edition | Subscribe