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A people-driven digital strategy for Singapore’s DBS

Publish date: 28 November 2019
Author: DBS Group

While digital developments are crucial to banks seeking to grow their market share, DBS has placed people at the core of its digital strategy, as Paul Cobban, Chief Data and Transformation Officer for DBS explains to Efma's Anne-Laure Jozan.

What is DBS’s strategy for transforming the workforce for the digital era?

Our people lie at the very heart of our transformation story. At the very inception of our journey a decade ago, we made a deliberate, strategic decision to involve the entire organization in our vision to re-imagine banking and we built it by driving a start-up culture. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom of the time, we made a choice to bring everyone along instead of driving change through a small innovation unit. We chose to keep, nurture and involve our people through all the waves of changes that ensued.

We have long recognized that in this fast-paced digital world, the quality of learning is a key competitive differentiator. We are passionate about being a learning organization and have created a culture that allows our people a myriad of opportunities to learn and upskill. We unlock the curiosity of our people by empowering and encouraging them to experiment, to celebrate failures and to become teachers.

We developed DigiFY, a curated curriculum on seven digital skills – Journey Thinking, Agile, Data Driven, Digital Business, Digital Technologies, Digital Communication, and Risk & Controls, which is offered to our employees through our virtual university, DBS Learning Hub. More than 80% of our employees have been through the curriculum.

We launched the Data Heroes program to build our data analytics capabilities. This is a first-of-its-kind, six-month program with an intensive and hands-on curriculum designed to equip employees with the skills and mindset of a data translator. We have trained over 1,000 employees in Singapore.

Our Hack2Hire program brings in talent that will enhance DBS’s digital offerings across a variety of skills, leveraging cloud technologies, machine learning, artificial intelligence, Big Data and analytics to transform how we do banking.

Our GANDALF scholarship promotes a culture of peer-to-peer learning. Employees can apply for a S$1,000 grant to learn a skill of their choice. In return, they have to pay it forward and teach it to at least 10 people.

We facilitate learning by doing through immersive innovation programs such as hackathons, partnering schools and start-ups. More than 5,000 of our employees have benefitted from this.

We harness our social learning to rapidly spread knowledge across the bank, and we are proud of the more than 30 physical and virtual communities on DBS’s social platforms, that foster collaboration and sharing.

How important are the human element and technological aspects in upskilling the workforce – for example, frontline or contact-center staff?

We have anchored 100% of our digital transformation on our people strategy and this is the key to our success. The culture of continuous learning that we espouse embraces both the hardware and the ‘heartware’ – the technology and the people who run it.

We have redesigned our DBS Customer Centre to be much more than just a phone answering service. In addition, we have empowered our Customer Service Officers (CSOs) to learn the skills necessary to create their own apps, such as the Alive Super App. These employee-created apps help to improve key aspects of their roles including engagement, performance management, and even online shift bidding.

We also offer our CSOs career growth, through internal mobility and digital training. Using DBS Skills Optimiser, they can select jobs and conduct a self-assessment to gauge their qualifications and aptitude against those positions. They are then redirected to an e-learning portal, which recommends online courses that can help them skill up for the jobs of their choice.

Can you tell us about the new roles that DBS is creating to better serve customers?

The proliferation of technology has deeply impacted the behaviors and choices of our customers. This, in turn, has driven demand for different skills at work and the redefinition of many jobs.

Through our digital transformation, we have been rigorously instrumenting our systems and customer journeys at a very granular level. We see the future roles in customer servicing and operations as monitoring and managing customer journeys in real-time – something we call ‘Customer Science’. Using advanced data analytics, we are able to anticipate and predict what customers will do next in their journeys and hence what challenges they may face. This allows us to make timely interventions to resolve issues, sometimes even before they occur.

At DBS, we are trying to fundamentally change the way we work, so that our decisions, our interactions, and our design principles are all influenced by agile behavior and complete alignment with our customers. To that end, we have restructured the way we work so that the products we build are designed for purpose and the process allows iteration and speed to market.

Two years ago, we adopted a Platform Operating model to enable us to align with the rapidly advancing digital landscape and increasingly digital-savvy customers. We created a two-in-a-box structure – Business and Technology leads with joint KPIs and a common, holistic vision to deliver a differentiated customer experience. Our customers today expect rapid fulfillment of their needs and hyper-personalization, and the two-in-a-box platform leads together drive customer value and outcomes through a common strategy and road map.

To equip our employees with durable capabilities for now and the future, we train them in data analytics journey management, human-centered design and agile development, enabling them to create seamless journeys that deliver excellence in customer experience.

We realize that there is still a lot of work to do to ensure that our people are ready and protected for whatever workplace changes may unfold in the future. We inspire them to become lifelong learners so they can reimagine their roles and the value they can continue to add.

We’re already seeing some inspiring examples of individuals who have transformed themselves and their roles. One of our customer service officers reskilled into a Natural Language Processing Engineer to meet the changing needs of the digital age. She went on to teach our digibank chatbot to respond to customer queries and has now transitioned into a ‘knowledge specialist’ role, where she executes communication strategies and coordinates demand reduction efforts by developing and improving self-help information in DBS’s Help & Support site.

One of our bank tellers, who had been serving our customers in the branch for nine years, made the decision to upskill herself to a Customer Service Officer (CSO). In this role, she is able to use her branch knowledge to help answer customers’ queries virtually through a Video Teller Machine.

How has DBS’ JIM innovation revolutionized HR processes – and how else might AI be leveraged to transform the workforce?

The bank has developed an innovative virtual bank recruiter called JIM, in partnership with Singapore start-up impress.ai. “We want to streamline our hiring process in order to give our applicants an enhanced experience with us. Currently, we are using JIM to hire wealth planning managers. JIM shortlists potential hires by automating the first stage of the hiring process.

“JIM reviews resumes, collects applicants’ responses for pre-screening questions, conducts psychometric profiling assessments, and answers questions. It offers applicants a faster, more streamlined process, with real-time interaction available 24/7, while saving recruiters some 40 man-hours a month.”

As a global innovator, how is DBS leading on franchising fintechs?

It has become increasingly important in this hyper-competitive world for organizations to scale up by leveraging the capabilities of partners. We have built and are continuously improving our partners ecosystem to focus on creating solutions. When we first started pairing with fintechs, our goal was to provide our employees with first-hand experience in how start-ups think and work. As we matured in our start-up culture, we have pivoted to tap into partnerships to solve real business problems.

We have partnered with F&B outlets like Kopi Ong (DBS chatbot aids ordering and paying for meals), and Food Republic (FR Rewards App to reward loyalty) among others. We partnered with US-based start-up Wonderful Minds to help our wealth managers build better relationships with their clients through dermatoglyphics neuro-mapping. Most recently, customers can link their DBS PayLah wallet to their palm scan and confirm payment at Octobox by scanning their palms.

Our business-matching program, Startup Xchange, matches fintech start-ups with various DBS Bank units and SME clients to co-create solutions and address business problems in real time. Based on the bank’s research, 78% of accelerators launched in Singapore (over the period 2016-2017) are now defunct, as many start-ups failed without continued support from established sponsors and partners. A 2018 Ernst & Young ASEAN FinTech Census also revealed that less than 39% of fintech start-ups benefitted from fixed tenures at accelerators. Startup Xchange effectively addresses these challenges to ensure sustained support from the collaborations in the program.

DBS was named ‘World’s Best Bank’ by Euromoney in 2019. How important a role does personalization of data with AI play towards obtaining such an accolade?

While we would not presume to speak for Euromoney about their decision, we at DBS aspire to be a data-driven company. This is a critical part of our digital transformation. We are focused on unlocking the value of data, making it accessible and democratic and using data to inform management decisions.

As we compete against digital native companies that are shaping consumer experiences, relevance and personalization have become indispensable in servicing our customers. We have learnt from them that delivering a highly curated experience for each individual stems from leveraging advanced analytics such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Take, for example, how we deliver high-impact, targeted campaigns to small-to-medium enterprises through contextual triggers and model-driven targeting from Institutional Banking Group. With the objective of increasing the conversion rates of customers, multiple transactional data such as Trade, Loans, Foreign Exchange was acquired and analyzed.

In order to embed artificial intelligence, and maximize the potential of advanced analytics, we are driving our culture and mindset from being product-centric to truly customer-centric. We immerse ourselves in the customer journey in order to identify, acquire and analyze the data that provides us with meaningful insights into the needs and desires of our customers. This is how we see ourselves standing apart in the way we understand our customers and serve them.

This interview is included in APAC Review 2019: Banks of the future

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