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How Digital Transformation Has Reinvented Customer Service in Banking

old woman holding a credit card in front of laptop with blank screen r64wHr4Yg - Global Banking | Finance

By Robin Speculand, CEO of Bridges Business Consultancy Int and co-founder of the Strategy Implementation Institute and the Ticking Clock Guys.


We have always been customer focused in banking and strived to provide the best possible customer service. However, a revolution is now happening in how this is achieved.

In many banks, despite claiming to be customer focused the thinking was still inside-out. Systems, structures and SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) where designed internally and then the customer had to fit into the bank’s approach. Consider corporate customer onboarding as a classic example in the amount of time it took to complete KYC (know your customer) and submit all the forms.

Digital transformation has shaken the foundations of the way banking is conducted. New technologies enable organizations to know think outside-in. This is where you spend considerable time understanding customers’ needs and ones and then designing systems, structures and SOPs to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

As part of the digital transformation numerous banks around the world are now claiming to be a tech company providing banking solutions. Probably the first bank to make this statement was DBS Bank, Singapore in 2014. Under the stewardship Piyush Gupta, DBS has led an industry revolution. It has been recognized as the best bank in the world over the last three years by The Banker, Global Finance and Euromoney.

The banks leaders recognized that “money lubricates life”, a powerful statement. But the leaders also recognized that this saying could quickly become prosaic—too ordinary. That’s because people tend to take banking for granted or even see it as a negative in their lives. So, the leaders strived to identify what “banking with a sense of purpose” would be like.

After the global financial crises in 2008, many people started distrusting banks and even called banking “painful.” Research at the time indicated that 74 percent of people preferred having root canal surgery over dealing with a bank![1] The team migrated toward making banking the opposite of painful—that was, to Making Banking Joyful.

Due to the emergence of numerous technologies, the means for Making Banking Joyful was rapidly evolving. DBS leaders recognized that, by leveraging these new technologies, they could make banking “invisible” to their customers. That would, in turn, create opportunities for customers to have enjoyable interactions when dealing with the bank and, ultimately, to experience a sense of happiness and peace of mind throughout their banking journey.

To implement Making Banking Joyful the bank had three strategic principles:

  1. Become Digital to the Core
  2. Embed Ourselves in the Customer Journey
  3. Culture by Design and Think Like a Start-Up

Under, Embed Ourselves in the Customer Journey the bank adopted the following practice is to truly become customer obsessed:

  • Customer Science

DBS focuses on the interaction between system performance and customer journey behavior. Simultaneously, it examines customer journeys to see where bankers can predict behavior. Bringing these two ideas together became known as Customer Science.

To make joyful experiences, the bank uses Customer Science to create instruments and methods of observation that help it track customer journeys. Specifically, it combines customer behavior data with systems data to build real-time analytical models.

  • Customer Journey Mapping

Today in DBS the default approach to resolving customer pain points is conducting customer journey mapping. Originally this was done in a war room, today they have converted it to a virtual process.

The real difference started by reimagining the “job to be done” for the customer—a term now embedded in the bank’s language to define and frame what needs to be done.

Bank leaders vigorously believed that customer centricity should be Making Banking Joyful highest priority. This goal differed from some other banks that put either technology or employee centricity at the top.

  • Design Thinking

DBS adopted design thinking and trained employees to use an approach called 4Ds: Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver. The 4Ds approach taught employees to adopt customer-journey thinking and reconsider how to define the customer value proposition.

An early success in design thinking was when it was applied to resolve the pain point for corporate treasures who typically manage several accounts with various currencies and transaction flows across numerous countries. This process involved having a relationship with different banks in order to optimize their treasury and cash management solutions. They were also challenged in keeping pace with regulatory changes in the different markets they traded. The whole process involving multiple parties was laborious and time-consuming.

In 2017, DBS launched Treasury Prism, one of the world’s first online treasury and cash management simulation tools and successfully took a painful journey and made it joyful.

“If there’s one bank shaking up cash management globally, it’s Asian bank DBS.” – Euromoney[2]

  • Hackathons

Introduced into the bank in 2015, hackathons created the platform for employees to identify and implement digital solutions to improve the customer experience. They also supported the belief that people learn from doing. They helped build transformation success by providing a platform for employees to do just that. Employees could observe what was possible when they applied digitalization and saw how quickly new solutions could be created and implemented.

The early hackathons built momentum, especially the first hackathon that led to the creation of Digibank – a branchless bank in India. Some of the participants from the first hackathon say it was a defining moment in their careers.

  • Data-Driven Culture

The phrase, “better data, better decisions” anchored the focus for the bank to become data driven. Where data overlaps with customers is where the magic happens. Performance in DBS is now measured across the bank in the 99th percentile, with data being transformed to drive the high performance required to deliver Making Banking Joyful.

The organization’s overriding theme in transforming to a data-driven culture has been to maximize value using data for the customer, for determining risk (both credit and operational), and for revenue. This happened because of employees adopting data in their day-to-day decision-making and by targeting a handful of large, infrequent initiatives in which the bank could realize exponential results.

article1 - Global Banking | FinanceThis article is partly extracted from the authors new book World’s Best Bank – A Strategic Guide to Digital Transformation


Robin Speculand is a recognized pioneer and expert in strategy and digital implementation. He is driven to transform strategy implementation globally by inspiring leaders to adopt a different mindset and approach. The founder of three organizations and three business associations, Robin is CEO of Bridges Business Consultancy Int and co-founder of the Strategy Implementation Institute and the Ticking Clock Guys. Robin is also a TEDx presenter and facilitator for IMD, Duke CE and Singapore Management University, and a prolific bestselling author. He recently authored World’s Best Bank – A Strategic Guide to Digital Transformation.article2 - Global Banking | Finance


[1] Dan Kadlec, “Why Millennials Would Choose a Root Canal Over Listening to a Banker,”, March 28, 2014,

[2] Clive Horwood, “The Cash Management Conundrum,”, October 2018,

Global Banking & Finance Review


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