The Secrets behind Transformation

The Secrets behind Transformation

By David Gledhill, CIO, DBS Bank [SGX: D05]

David Gledhill, CIO, DBS Bank [SGX: D05]

The only constant is change, so how can companies keep pace with change? Over the past decade, I’ve come to learn of a few secret tactics that help facilitate and catalyst a company’s transformation journey.

The word ‘transformation’ has become synonymous with almost every company looking to evolve and thrive in the digital economy. 2018 was a year of unprecedented change as platform companies continued to disrupt traditional industries. Amazon gave us a glimpse of the future of retail through Amazon Go and Apple worked with Zimmer Biomet to demonstrate how wearable devices are improving patients’ journey through continuous data monitoring and delivery.

If companies focused purely on the technology aspect of transformation and neglected the organisational changes, the most important component would fall through the cracks. Some companies are guilty of putting on “digital lipstick”, where they introduce a new front-end system or fancy mobile app. We had to take a different approach that brought about an inside-out change, where we had to think beyond hardware and to include our heartware – our people.

This is why we believe our employees are the most critical drivers of change.

In addition to equipping our people with digital skills, we saw three critical elements as vital to our transformation journey.

1. Being Digital to the Core

We started by reimagining how the bank could operate to provide different customer experiences and looked towards global technology giants for guidance. Instead of comparing ourselves to other financial institutions we viewed technology companies, platform players and fintechs as our main competitors. After spending some time in Silicon Valley with these tech giants and platform companies, we started to understand how they operate and how it has enabled them to create a culture of continuous innovation.

To kickstart our transformation journey, we focused on getting our foundation right. We eliminated legacy systems and we went from being 85% vendor-managed to 90% self-managed today. We also started migrating our systems to cloud-optimised technology that resulted in significant efficiency savings of up to 75% while increasing our product release cadence by 8.5 times. These steps laid the foundation for us to take our solutions into the future.

2. Embedding Ourselves into the Customer Journey

The next shift we took was putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer to identify their real ‘job to be done’. For example, a customer isn’t simply trying to find the best mortgage loan, he or she is actually looking to build a home or start a family. This changes the way we engage with our customers and how we create products for them.

The success of digibank in India is a true testament of how we managed to use this new found perspective to scale our operations. Digibank allows customers to create a mobile wallet in 90 seconds and open an account with us without having to step into a bank branch. With this one-of-a-kind experience, we have acquired more than 2.3 million customers in just three years at only one-fifth the resources required for a traditional bank set-up– purely based on the insight that what people need are banking services and not physical banks.

3. Creating a 27,000-Person Start-Up

Our people are our biggest assets at DBS. While modern technology has helped to transform the banking sector, we are ultimately still a people-driven business.

By creating a robust workplace and dynamic culture, we flipped the organisation inside out and created what we regard as the ‘27,000-person start-up’, where we can work like a start-up and scale like a large enterprise.

With that in mind, we built on five essential characteristics to drive this change.

(i) Be customer obsessed,

(ii) Be data-driven,

(iii) Dare to experiment more,

(iv) Adopt an agile way of working, and

(v) Become a learning organisation.

We then created programmes to spark curiosity and encourage employees to learn. The Gandalf scholarship programme is one example. Employees are given SGD 1,000 to learn a new skill and they return to share their learnings with their peers. This practice of peer-to-peer learning has seen over 130 employees teach more than 14,700 of their colleagues through various methods of ‘teach-backs’.

Tapping into our wealth of bank talents, we launched a Back to School series regionally where subject-matter experts conducted classes that engaged over 10,000employees. These topics include agile, data, digital business models, personal branding, and cloud.

We also introduced DBS Startup Xchange, DBS UNI. CORN, Idea Vault and Hackathons to identify top talents and drive innovative problem-solving.

Our approach to developing our hardware and heartware has resonated strongly with our people, and has resulted in a complete transformation from the front office to the back. Since then, we have conducted over 1,000 experiments and launched many industry firsts including DBS Hack2Hire, a two-part hackathon to bring in top technology talent and; DBS Developers Portal, the world’s largest banking API developer platform.

Being recognised as the Best Bank in the World by Global Finance and The Banker’s Global Bank of the Year is only the tip of the iceberg. We look forward to driving more sustainable outcomes and pushing the boundaries of what it means to Live More, Bank Less for our employees and customers.

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