DBS Bank: Transformation through strategy implementation

By Centre for Management Practice

It was February 2010, four months after Piyush Gupta joined DBS Bank (DBS) in Singapore as its CEO. During the first 100 days of his tenure as CEO, Gupta had started to formulate a new direction for the bank which would focus on three areas: determining a new strategy and areas of focus; improving processes and technology; and creating a stronger culture.

At an offsite retreat, Gupta and his management team came up with the bank’s positioning going forward. He explained,

Our statement of strategic intent: To be the Asian Bank of choice for the new Asia. ‘Asian Bank’ meant that we wanted to focus on Asia. To be the ‘Bank of Choice’, we wanted to make sure that we had the attributes and added value to customers and employees in such a way that they would choose us. ‘New Asia’ was a forward-looking statement of what we thought Asia was turning out to be.

Implementing the strategy would require communicating the strategy internally, developing the people in the organisation, and putting technology infrastructure in place.

To communicate the strategy, Gupta and his strategy team visited DBS offices across countries in order to achieve alignment across the entire group. All country heads were required to present their plan to execute against the new strategy. Internal and external communications were also coordinated and communicated throughout all levels of the organisation.

The customer was placed at the heart of the DBS banking experience. Internal processes were made more efficient and transparent, which subsequently transformed the customer experience from the inside out. The definition of ‘Asian Service’ to DBS was articulated as RED—‘Respectful, Easy to deal with, and Dependable’. Having the customer as priority made decision making quicker. It also encouraged a culture of innovation, which referred to any way of doing something that created value, and not necessarily with new technology.

To develop the organisation and employees, several things were done. The matrix management structure was revised to determine who in the organisation was best equipped to make, and be accountable for, different types of decisions. The bank also consciously focused on exiting businesses that were not in line with the strategy.

When it came to hiring, potential candidates were assessed on whether they demonstrated the bank’s values of PRIDE—‘passionate and committed, value relationships, integrity and respect, dedicated to teamwork, confidence to excel’.

For employees, new performance systems and structures were put in place to better measure and evaluate their performance. The talent development agenda was rigorously pursued. A holistic “Triple E” framework—Education, Experience, Exposure—was developed to create an impactful learning environment for people and help them progress in their careers.

Finally, a consistent technology platform was rolled across the group for enhanced visibility over individual, business unit and country performance.

With all the changes that were going on within the bank, how could it keep track of changes, and more importantly, ensure that they were delivering the desired results? Gupta shared.

We created an end-to-end measurement system which we called the DBS balanced scorecard. It was aligned all the way from the most junior level to the Board.

At the end of the year, the management committee would go back to the Board, and use the scorecard that was agreed upon at the beginning of the year as an objective basis for evaluating what they had achieved.

By April 2015, the plan had been achieved a year ahead of schedule. DBS was now a bank that was completely aligned towards its Asian strategy, and functioning with an innovation mindset and a laser-like focus on customer experience.

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