How DBS Changed Its Fortunes in Less than a Decade

Today, Singapore financial institution DBS Bank might be known as the “world’s best digital bank,” but it was not so long ago that the company had a reputation for being inefficient.

Chief Data and Transformation Officer Paul Cobban (pictured) recalled how a taxi driver had referred to the bank’s acronym as “damn bloody slow” back in 2009.

Speaking on the HR Festival Asia main stage, Cobban said the leap into the big league can be attributed to a concerted companywide effort at transforming customer experience and organizational culture.

“We went through a series of transformations and each one we built on top of the other, the first one being customer experience,” Cobban told the packed room.

One of the ways DBS executed this was through a five-day workshop called Process Improvement Event, which was aimed at reducing customer waiting time and unnecessary layers on its systems.

“We ended up taking 250 million customer annual waiting hours out of the system,” said Cobban.

Now, DBS is furthering its customer service experience by utilizing an approach that Cobban referred to as “customer science.” This approach sees the bank using customer behavior data to predict and prevent problems.

A customer behavior map, for example, shows what services customers are mostly interacting with, which then helps to inform future decisions.

A focus on culture redesign to become more innovative across the board was also key to the company’s successful transformation, he said.

The bank set up an innovation team, whose No. 1 priority was ironically “not to innovate,” Cobban said. The purpose of this was to encourage the rest of the company to innovate, rather than have it fall on the shoulders of the innovation team alone.

Innovation often involves some element of failure, but, Cobban says, that just comes with the territory.

“We ran so many programs at innovation [and] many failed,” he said, “but they helped to create a culture of innovation, which is the ultimate goal.”