Research & Case Study

Research & Case Study

DBS Case Study 2


Purchase the Case Study from Singapore Management University


Under the stewardship of Piyush Gupta, CEO and Director of DBS Group, the bank has been recognized by three major banking awards as the best bank in the world. The catalyst for the transformation was the need to adopt digitalization in 2014. This case study explains the bank’s journey to become the best.

It is the second DBS case study written by Robin Speculand and Adina Wong at the Singapore Management University. Their previous DBS case study explained how the bank laid the foundation for the second strategy transformation under Piyush’s stewardship. Strategy 2.0 set the goal of becoming the best bank in the world — BBIW — by 2020. In 2015, the bank’s board of directors supported this new Strategy 2.0 and placed a S$200 million bet on DBS’ digital transformation.

This case study shows how DBS has “made banking joyful” (the internal name of strategy) by executing on three strategic tenants: 1) Digital to the Core 2) Embed Ourselves in the Customer Journey and 3) Create 27,000 startup. It also explains the importance of the digital dashboard and the value of digital customers.

Digital to the Core focused on how the bank would transform its technology through the term acronym GANDALF. By taking the first letters of Google, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, LinkedIn, and Facebook, it spells GANALF (not GANDALF). The missing “D” inspired DBS to set its site on becoming the “D” among these global technology giants.

DBS’ plan is to use open-source software like Google, run on cloud platforms like Amazon, use data and automation to scale and provide personalized recommendations like Netflix, apply quality design like Apple, be a learning community pushing for continuous learning like LinkedIn, and be more collective like Facebook.

Embed Ourselves in the Customer Journey focused on becoming customer obsessed. At the bank’s annual strategy planning off-site in 2015, Piyush and his 250-strong senior management team kicked off its digital transformation journey. Of the two days allocated, an entire day and a half was spent training senior managers on customer journey thinking, equipping them to run customer journeys for their own teams. By 2019, DBS was running over 700 end-to-end customer journey processes tied to Strategy 2.0, with the goal of providing a digital means for transaction processing, acquiring customers and engaging with them.

Create 27,000 Start-ups focused on transforming the culture. To eliminate the fear people had toward experimentation and taking risks, hackathons were organized beginning in 2015. Employees would join with external coders and entrepreneurs (from start-ups) to form a team of about ten people. The team would come together for a three-day design session, which was preceded by two days of education and problem identification. As a result, the bank adopted agile methodologies to transform into a data-driven culture and provide a safe environment for employees to experiment and take risks.

Leaders can regard this study as a deep dive into knowing how to adopt digitalization and succeed where so many organizations are failing.

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