Plenty more to do, so DBS chief's not retiring soon

Mr Gupta speaking at the Reuters Newsmaker event yesterday. The DBS chief said there is a lot of unfinished work, with DBS in the midst of transforming its business channels and product offerings through digitalisation.
Mr Gupta speaking at the Reuters Newsmaker event yesterday. The DBS chief said there is a lot of unfinished work, with DBS in the midst of transforming its business channels and product offerings through digitalisation.PHOTO: REUTERS

DBS Group Holdings chief executive Piyush Gupta isn't looking to step down from his position any time soon, and said he still has plenty more to do at the bank.

The boss of Singapore's largest local bank was yesterday asked about DBS' succession plan, having spent seven years on the job.

"There are three things that can happen. I can get tired, I can retire, or I can get fired.

"At this point in time, I'm not tired, I'm a long way from retirement, although I could get fired," said Mr Gupta, 57, jokingly.

He was speaking at the Reuters Newsmaker event, which was held at One Raffles Quay.

"I've had this discussion with the board actually, and the board said they don't think I'm going anywhere in the next couple of years so that's okay," he added reasssuringly.

Mr Gupta, who joined DBS as its chief executive in November 2009, said he had approached the job with the belief that it would be difficult to do a good job without putting in at least a decade. "I still believe that's the case - there's still a lot of unfinished work to do."

DBS is in the midst of transforming its business channels and product offerings through digitalisation, something that Mr Gupta is counting on to catalyse the bank's overseas growth. This will be important for its long term prospects, as Singapore's small market size gradually becomes a constraint in the next 10 to 15 years, he said.

"It seems to us that there is no substitute to being able to grow in big countries - China, India and Indonesia, three countries that matter to us," Mr Gupta said, adding that he wants to see Singapore's share of the business eventually come down from 60 per cent now to about half.

"The digital transformation that we're trying to do can help us piggyback on the domestic growth of these three markets."

Going digital can help DBS reach deeper into specific markets, which would be expensive and ineffective using a traditional brick-and-mortar approach, said Mr Gupta.

In India, for instance, DBS has acquired around one million customers in less than a year with its digibank, which was India's first mobile-only bank. "We would never have been able to do this in 10 years with a branch model," he said.

Meanwhile, DBS expects to keep growing its wealth management operations on the back of Asia's booming wealth, potentially to 20 per cent of the bank's revenue in the next few years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'Plenty more to do, so DBS chief's not retiring soon'. Print Edition | Subscribe