Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi

DBS Bank

Solving business problems with customer journeys

Raof Latiff, Head of Digital, Institutional Banking Group at DBS

Singapore-based financial services group, DBS, continues on its journey as one of the world’s leading digital banks. Treasury Today Asia speaks to Raof Latiff, Head of Digital, Institutional Banking Group at DBS to find out what the bank has been doing to achieve its digital aspirations and the benefits this work is bringing to customers.

Raof Latiff

Head of Digital, Institutional Banking Group

Digitisation is not just a talking point at DBS. It is a culture that runs deep through the organisation and the individuals that work there, as it aims to become the world’s leading digital bank.

Driven by more than just a desire to boost short-term revenues in a competitive landscape, DBS understands that digital disruption is transforming the world of its customers. As a result, its leadership team is acutely aware that the bank too must adapt to remain relevant and continue to add value.

Beyond technology

At DBS, digitisation is more than technology, says the bank’s Head of Digital in its Institutional Banking Group, Raof Latiff. Indeed, whilst DBS is investing significant sums to upgrade and future-proof its internal technology stack, Latiff is most excited about the fundamental changes it is having on how the bank operates and serves its clients.

“The entire management at DBS are driving the digital agenda and there is a strong momentum across the bank,” he says. “The objective is to create a culture akin to a start-up environment, where there is freedom to think creatively, test new concepts and, if successful, bring them to our clients.”

This non-traditional way of working transfers to DBS’ corporate client interactions. Traditionally, transaction bankers spent most of their time talking to treasury teams about their pain-points before pitching solutions that could address these, explains Latiff. “Today, we are spending more time talking about business problems with multiple departments within our clients’ organisations, before co-creating digital solutions to solve these challenges. These are two very different ways of working.”

Co-creation in action

Latiff notes that the bank already has an impressive ‘showreel’ of innovative solutions that have been delivered to clients using this approach. One such example is the work it has done with Singaporean ride-hailing platform, Grab.

In a relatively short time, Grab has made significant headway into the saturated and competitive Singaporean taxi market with its user-friendly platform. Recently, however, the company had been facing a problem. To keep its drivers happy, Grab needed to reduce the time it took for drivers to receive payment for their work.

DBS became aware of this issue in a regular meeting with Grab and set about working with them to develop a solution. The result is an instant Cash Out service, enabled by DBS’ API solution known as IDEAL RAPID, that is built into the Grab app, allowing drivers to transfer payment for their work into their bank accounts within seconds of finishing their shift.

“This is the perfect example of the value that can be delivered through our co-creation work with clients,” says Latiff. “The fact that our solution is embedded within the client’s platform also illustrates how a bank can become a seamless and value-adding part of a corporate’s customer journey.”

Power of the Prism

Another solution that is the outcome of understanding the customer journey and co-creation is the development of Treasury Prism — DBS’ online treasury and cash management simulation platform. Latiff explains that in our conversations with corporate treasurers, we discovered that they often find it difficult to identify what the optimal treasury structure is, what are the implications for their operations when regulations change, and what else they can do to improve efficiency and better support the business. “In a few clicks, Treasury Prism gives them the answers. It generates optimised structures, provides contextual insights on tax and regulations, and offers quantifiable benefits for each structure,” he says.

For Latiff, who has worked in corporate banking for over 20 years, this is truly revolutionary. “In the past, it would take treasurers months of back and forth to get answers to the questions from their banks,” he says. “Now, with Treasury Prism, complex treasury management solutions can be simulated in minutes, and treasurers can conclude their exercise a lot faster.”

Treasury Prism is more than just a sales tool, it’s contructed based on client feedback. Latiff explains that it is about empowering treasurers and “showing them what is possible with the help of technology”.

Digital pipeline

Despite the notable success that DBS has had already on its digitisation journey, Latiff stresses that there is more work to do to continue supporting our clients as they undergo their own digital transformations.

As part of this, DBS is aiming to build a digital ecosystem, underpinned by APIs. “This will ideally integrate DBS’ retail and wholesale bank more closely and, in turn, create more seamless connections with our customers and beyond,” he says.

In addition, DBS is keen to continue working on broader digital initiatives to move the whole industry forward. One notable example is on trade finance, where DBS is working with the Singaporean and Hong Kong authorities to digitise this space. Latiff says to expect some interesting developments in both the documentary trade and open account trade space over the coming year. The bank is also continuing to experiment with distributed ledger technology, as recent initiatives with J.P. Morgan and RBC indicate.

“There is lots more to come,” concludes Latiff. “We are committed to deliver value digitally and truly believe that this is what will ensure that DBS remains competitive in the future as the bank of choice for our clients.”