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DBS CIO Neal Cross reveals key branch banking strategies for the future He also talks of plans of creating a digitised banking sphere for consumers.

Neal Cross Chief Innovation Officer DBS

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s managing director and chief innovation officer at DBS Bank, Neal Cross is in charge of driving the bank’s innovation agenda regionally. With over 20 years of experience in technology, innovation, and financial services to back him up, he charts the innovation roadmap for DBS to enhance customer experience and better engage customers in the digital landscape. Here he shares his vision of the retail bank branch of the future. Why is digitisation/innovation important for DBS? The pursuit of digitisation and innovation at DBS is focussed clearly on one thing, to be able to improve the kind of experiences we provide for our customers that enable them to live more. However, the manifestation of that pursuit are two very distinct things. For us, digitisation is a recognition of where society is headed towards, with the increasing use of digital technologies. It’s clear that consumers are moving towards more digital experiences as they have access to various devices that allow them to seamlessly access various services. At the end of the day, it’s all about

convenience and that’s why digitisation is important to us, because it is pivotal in transforming banking experiences to become effortless and simplified. DBS’s Digibank is a prime example of this as we wanted to redesign the consumer banking experience, where customers can do all their banking virtually. Innovation though represents a different frontier where our big focus is on innovation management. To us, innovation is a mindset, it’s really not about technology. And that mindset needs to be an inclusive one, which means everyone within the bank should be able to innovate. At its heart, innovation management is about using a set of tools that enables people within DBS to have a common understanding of processes and goals – that is our focus on customer centricity. Having that understanding empowers our people to think outside the box and respond to external and internal circumstances and use creativity to introduce new ideas, processes, and products to address current needs. You’ve won multiple accolades for your digitisation efforts. What is your digital banking strategy? It’s always very reassuring, and encouraging at the same time, to be awarded and recognised by such renowned personalities, who in themselves are highly symbolic to innovation – Steve Wozniak, Sir Richard Branson, and the likes (we were also just recognised as the World’s Best Digital Bank). To put it simply, our digital banking strategy has always focussed on the end-users, our customers. We started to envisage what their future would look like and how digital technology plays a role in that. That’s why we are in the midst of creating a digitised banking sphere for our consumers using sophisticated systems architecture in our backend

technology, which by the way is already driving 99% of interactions with consumers. Through the use of APIs we have been able to turn banking into an experience, rather a transaction for our customer. Integration is key here.

Too many banks have been focussed on trying to integrate technology into their retail branches without truly trying to understand what customers want from a retail branch. Branches should be a place where customers feel like they can spend time as opposed to a place that frustrates them.

How do you picture the retail bank branch of the future? Too many banks have been focussed on trying to integrate technology into their retail branches without truly trying to understand what customers want from a retail branch. Branches should be a place where customers feel like they can spend time as opposed to a place that frustrates them. There will come a time when we see more people coming to the branch for advice as they conduct their transactions online or via mobile. That means redesigning the branch to suit that experience and then identifying how technology plays into that rather than force feeding technology into the branches as is often done now. That has several implications on the way banks operate in the future. For one, the push towards digitisation and innovation means that banks will need to substantiate their own employee journeys so their people are ready for the new kinds of customer experiences consumers desire. That means we will see a lot of retraining of staff as organisations seek to improve employee productivity and raise satisfaction levels (customers and employees). Secondly, we might see the redesign of branches that aim to maximise spaces for interactions as opposed to a usual scene in a branch where we see customers often waiting around. DBS has already introduced SMS queue systems so customers don’t waste their time. What we may see is the increasing growth of digital spaces where banks may primarily operate to engage with customers.


Singapore Business Review (December 2016 - January 2017)