Executive View: Ramesh Sankar, Group Head of Digital Channels, DBS

Published: Dec 2020

With COVID-19 accelerating the adoption of digital technology, what does this mean for corporate banking? And how will developments like Context Driven and Invisible Banking help businesses in the future? We spoke to Ramesh Sankar, Group Head of Digital Channels at DBS, to find out.

Ramesh Sankar, DBS

Ramesh Sankar

Group Head of Digital Channels

DBS logo

To what extent is the global pandemic accelerating digitalisation for corporates and banks?

There is a lot of literature and commentary out there saying the current pandemic has accelerated digitalisation. I think that is true and a new norm – across Asia, things that you would have expected to be in place in two to three years’ time have suddenly been accelerated and achieved in three to four months.

Over the past three quarters, a lot of impetus has gone into digitalising various aspects of businesses – from simple process digitalisation to creating innovative products and services for end customers. One such example is in the food and beverage industry, where the pandemic meant people could not go into restaurants to eat, and home delivery rose to the fore, requiring businesses to add new digital payment and collection services into their customer sales models.

How are companies in APAC seeking to adapt their banking activities, and how can digital banking help?

It has become essential for companies to be able to support their employees in working from home to continue to operate their businesses – even if they never imagined that would be the case. This has driven many businesses, that were slow to adapt to digital prior to the pandemic, to urgently put in place digital solutions including their banking needs to allow for remote authentication and authorisation of transactions.

At DBS we are increasingly driving digital and helping businesses transform to adapt to the new reality. With emerging technologies, capabilities for doing this are far better than they were two years ago. It has also become cheaper – for example, a company can adopt cloud services for their operations for a fraction of the cost of an on-premise solution, and add to it on an incremental basis.

Another consideration is that the regulatory landscape is changing. Where digital signatures were previously regarded with some scepticism, governments and regulators are now actively driving and adopting such standards and exploring the use of blockchain and other technologies to improve KYC processes.

A key objective for DBS has been to bring banking-as-a-service to the customer’s platform, operating environment, and ecosystems. We have been progressively developing and launching many such services over the last few years. With our API suite, we now have over 200+ corporate APIs that customers can easily access to bring banking into their workflow, drive efficiencies and create new business opportunities.

At the same time, we are witnessing a significant rise in the platform-based economy. A large number of platforms are being developed, including business-to-consumer, business-to-business and government-to-citizen platforms. There is an increasing opportunity to participate in these platforms, integrate banking as a service and become part of the customers ecosystem.

What is meant by Context Driven and Invisible Banking? And how can corporates benefit from these developments?

When we talk about Context Driven banking, there are several connotations. When you as an individual have a relationship with a bank, is that relationship unique – or are you faced with mass market, one-size-fits-all products that force you to change your habits? With the right application of data, we can harness artificial intelligence models to offer the products and services our customers really need.

Context Driven banking also means using data to truly understand our customers, know what their needs are and contextualise offerings in a way that helps them grow their business or improve their efficiencies. This can be driven at the bank platform level or through integration within our clients’ own platforms using Invisible Banking. This is increasingly important as more and more of our everyday activities are becoming embedded into our digital lifestyle, like finding the next best restaurant to try out, or securing funding for your business when you need it most etc. With the power of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning combined with connectivity tools using our API suite, and our various blockchain initiatives, we can really make banking contextualised and invisible to the customer, and their clients.

What does the ability for supply chains to connect on common platforms mean for the future of banking?

From purchasing a car to ordering your favourite perfume, the number of platforms are growing every day. The inefficiency this might create is that there are specialised platforms that cater only for specific needs – Interconnectivity across platform for seamless data and transaction flows is still a challenge.

Creating standardised APIs and enabling Banking as a service means that customers can have access to their banking needs to make a payment, access finance, receive a collection , get confirmation that money has been collected amongst other use cases, in a seamless way across platforms and thereby creating huge operational efficiencies. Such use cases while improving efficiencies for the business also leads to their customers being more loyal, as the whole digital experience is seamless.

What are SMEs looking for from digitisation and how is DBS responding?

One of the biggest challenges for SMEs is that they may have significantly less resources available to them than larger corporates. So how do we serve SMEs better with digital capabilities?

A key consideration is to ensure that all interactions are digital, so that it is easier and faster for SMEs to access products and services. From setting up accounts to enabling collections, accessing working capital to administering accounts, this can all be achieved digitally, instantly and securely. This allows our SME’s to focus more on their businesses, while their banking needs are taken care of in a simple and seamless manner.

For example, today if a restaurant business has to switch to a delivery service due to a pandemic, it will need banking services that enables the receipt of online payments – given our digital onboarding and implementation journeys, the company can make this switch immediately.

A further goal is to use emerging technology to create a unique user experience. Our next generation SME banking platform on IDEAL provides for hyper personalisation, allowing customers to operate the platform the way they choose, including dashboards they want to see, offers that are unique to them, and products and services specific to their needs, amongst many others. Making the overall experience unique to the individual business is a key part of what we believe will benefit and delight our customer base.

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