In 2009 I joined DBS, a mid sized bank headquartered in Singapore to lead the transformation efforts. On my first day I got into a taxi and asked the driver to take me to the DBS headquarters. He replied “Ah DBS – Damn Bloody Slow”. Back in 2009 DBS was an under-performing organisation, famous for its long queues, bureaucracy, lack of customer care, poor employee engagement and mediocre financial performance. My friends thought I was mad for joining.
Ten years later DBS started to be recognised for its remarkable transformation. In 2016 Euromoney named DBS as the “World’s Best Digital Bank. By 2018 DBS was recognised as the “Best Bank in the World” by Global Finance, “Global Bank of the Year” by the Banker and “World’s Best Bank” by Euromoney. In 2019 Harvard Business Review recognised DBS as one of the top ten transformations of the decade along-side the likes of Adobe, Microsoft, Netflix and Amazon. Many books, articles and case studies were written about our work. We received countless visitors from many companies across many industries looking to understand the secrets of our success.
I was fortunate to be leading the transformation as the Chief Transformation Officer and since 2018 additionally the Chief Data Officer. As such I have learn a lot. I have learnt what works and more importantly what does not. I wish I could tell you that we had it all planned from the start. Of course we did not. The transformation was very messy. However looking back now it is possible to abstract the lessons.
Since retiring from DBS in January 2022, I aim to share the lessons for the benefit of others through my blog, speaking and advising where I can. I am curious to see if the lessons are transferrable to other companies, industries and sectors.
The DBS Transformation has been widely recognised and has won many awards along the way. Here are some of the highlights