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Five lessons DBS just gave other banks

Sit down, it’s time for a lesson in digital banking. This week, DBS launched their much anticipated mobile-only bank in India. For my money, this is bigger news than Apple Pay launching in Singapore. Here are five key lessons for all other banks, in Asia and beyond. Now take a seat, school’s in session!

#1: Politics and Regulation are just hurdles

When Indian policymakers countered Singapore’s decision to limit expansion of Indian banks into Singapore, that was a big setback for DBS own plans in India. They could have done what all other banks would do, which is get back in line and grumble about it.

Instead, they turned the tables and looked at it as a challenge. After all, a hurled is meant to be jumped over! If you can’t set up more branches, what can you do? What if you just had an app?

#2: Onboarding in 90 seconds

Yeah that’s not a misprint. This isn’t 90 days like some other Asian banks. Heck, even 90 minutes would be impressive.

Forget banking apps, 90 seconds is Über fast

The smarts here are that in digital you need to get customers in, quickly. If they’ve decided to download the app, don’t turn them away by introducing massive amounts of headache with signup. DBS have removed that almost completely. Even the credit-card is virtual, so no physical handover is needed. Slick!

For customers that want to move from the entry-level E-Wallet to a real savings account, they will still need to perform KYC and AML checks. Again, point for DBS. As they only have a tiny branch network, they couldn’t ask customers to swing by the nearest DBS branch. Instead, they partnered with a local F&B chain that can be found at any corner! Another example of turning a disadvantage into an opportunity. Two thumbs up.

#3: No tokens, no OTP, no B.S.

Let’s face it. Everybody hates tokens. There’s not many things in life I hate more. The worst is three-factor authentication, which DBS still uses in Singapore. You need your phone, their app, an OTP and their token. That’s a lot of moving parts that can stop working together, and a lot of annoyance for customers.

With Digibank in India, they’ve done away with the whole lot. Applause!! 

#4: Leveraging startup technology

While not absolutely necessary, DBS has gone the extra mile to show where things are going. Instead of hiring an army of customer service staff to answer the same question 1,000 times a day, they have chosen to trust Artificial Intelligence technology from U.S. startup Kasisto. Interestingly, they were spun off from the same lab that gave us Apple’s Siri. No joke.

This is an interesting experiment in the banking context, and banks should follow consumer feedback closely. DBS have taken a risk in integrating A.I. into the customer experience, making the app almost conversational in nature. If proven successful, the use cases for A.I. are a golden opportunity for costs savings.

For me the most important fact here is that they found an interesting startup, and brought them in. There’s a lot of talk about how banks should work with startups, so here’s an example. DBS have taken a minority stake in the company, so motivation should be high on both sides to make it work.

#5: From spenders to savers

In addition to the daily banking needs, DBS have combined one of my favorite digital banking features into the app: spend tracking and budgeting. It’s a subtle but intelligent way to get consumers to think about their financial health. No extra effort required, just use spending data, analytics and recommendations.

Once you get people to stop unhealthy behaviors such as spending on credit, the next evolution is savings. Again, DBS is a step ahead by incorporating an attractive savings product offering 7% returns. In this choppy global market and negative interest rates, that’s about as good as it gets.

In conclusion, DBS has put together a package that surpasses anything other banks provide, and even gives some of the European challenger banks a run for their money! So other banks, while you were busy talking about all this, DBS just went ahead and did it. What’s your next move?












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