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How DBS Bank is transforming from a traditional bank to tech-fin bank

“On our digibank platform, 82% of interactions are handled by the chatbots, hence it is cost effective too. Our mantra is to become an invisible bank, all ways in the pocket, see us around on laptops, digital media”

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Alfian Sharifuddin, Managing Director, Head of Technology & Operations, DBS India, is a hardcore technologist and been with the DBS Bank for more than 18 years. About three years ago, Sharifuddin moved to India to set up seamless technology infrastructure. In India, DBS Bank launched the digibank platform in 2016, which was then India’s first mobile-only bank. In just 90 seconds, a customer can have a fully operational bank account.

“As a company, things have gone forward by leaps and bounds. We have had a program internally named ’GANDALF’, the various letters stand for the big technology companies. G-Google, A- Amazon, N- Netflix, D- DBS Bank, A- Apple, L- LinkedIn and F- Facebook. So this short acronym is guiding the company, as to how DBS Bank wants to transform itself from being a traditional legacy type bank to a ‘tech-fin’, a finance company very much led by technology,” Sharifuddin explains.

Going Digital heavy
Since the bank’s extension approach will largely be driven by the digital footprint, the bank has both institutional and retail strategy around the digital rollout. For example, DBS Bank has tied up with Tally, which offers accounting packages, to provide a tight link between the Tally software package in its online banking portal, so that the customers have easy ways to use banking services.

DBS Bank has always been at the forefront of cutting edge technology. In 1997, when there was no technological boom like today, the bank launched the first internet banking in Singapore followed up with the mobile bank. “The digital evolution was natural to DBS Bank since it is in our DNA to adopt the latest technology. It actually exhilarated our growth when these new different technologies were shaping up, but it was not an unnatural thing,” he says.

The basic definition of digital is moving away from the physical contact, in essence, to move away from the brick and motor type setup to virtue setup, led by the software. DBS Bank has always been moving its journey to the next level and considers a holistic end-to-end journey. Sharifuddin mentions that they do not consider digitising or digitalising to move away from the physical to the virtual experience, rather the bank looks at the entire end-to-end flow.

“We are excited to explore into the loan space, unsecured loan, and we are considering the loan for the business entities, how we can quickly assist the creditworthiness of a business entity and dispersing the right loan amount,” he further adds.

Personal loan experience has been updated and upgraded, and have been linked to the digibank platform, where within 90 seconds the bank can issue a loan of up to fifteen lakh rupees. Leveraging the smart technologies to identify the customer’s creditworthiness and immediately the bank decides the amount of the loan.

The bank is also working on the intelligent profile recognisation, which will enable them to offer the right blend of the products and services.

World’s biggest banking API platform with over 180 API banking
“The objective of the open API drive is to get the engagement from the fintech community to try out the services we have, to identify the best services that the bank can offer and introduce innovative applications, to monetise and utilize our platform,” Sharifuddin explains.

The bank runs a lot of hackathons. Recently they have invited around 60 fintech partners and they would come up with concepts and use the bank’s APIs to built applications. The winner developer would further develop the application to the next generation application and release it in the public domain.

These open APIs platform goes beyond the app developers, the bank also hooks up with the ecosystem partners. For example, in India, they have partnered with the steel trading online platform, Loyce. Through their open API platform, Loyce links up DBS via their open APIs so that the two organisations can do the exchange transaction.

“The open API architecture allows us to hook up with a lot of ecosystem partners in a much shorter time, and we are able to provide the standard interconnection protocols,” he adds.

Earlier it was a point to point connection, it might take six months to be on the interconnect. Whereas, with open API architecture connects can be done as quickly as in 30 days. Not just faster, but also has broadened width of potential partners and speed to market. The bank has successfully used chatbots to automate the manual interactions with the customers and remove the need to hire an army of call center agents.

“On our digibank platform, 82 per cent of interactions are handled by the chatbots; hence it is cost effective too. Our mantra is to become an invisible bank, all ways in the pocket, see us around on laptops, the digital media,” mentions Sharifuddin.


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