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DBS banking on platforms instead of pipelines

Singapore

DBS's latest investment in retail marketplace Carousell comes as banking can no longer be a matter of managing pipes, but has to work by plugging into lifestyles in an "invisible" way, said DBS CEO Piyush Gupta.

Mr Gupta's comments came as Singapore's largest bank - which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year - on Tuesday launched a S$30 million branding campaign that aims for a "live more, bank less" approach.

The bank has launched car, property and electricity marketplaces in the last nine months, with these platforms accessible through the DBS website.

DBS this week also said it has joined in a Series C fundraising round for Carousell, with the retail platform raising US$85 million in total.

The bank can, for example, plug into Carousell's network to solve payment pain points, he said.

Mr Gupta noted that the future of banking would not be in the pipeline business, where banks push services "from us to the customers". The future is in embedding their services in "ecosystems".

While the bank can build ecosystems without making financial investments, Mr Gupta said the Carousell investment is one way for the bank to "capture and co-create" with start-ups.

The move also comes as Mr Gupta continues to see the biggest competition for the banks from non-banking entities.

He noted that tech firms have been able to reinvent banking by having a view of how social media works. He did not list examples, but Tencent's WeChat has been a dominant force in China because the app has been able to integrate a well-oiled chat function with retail payments.

While digital innovation has allowed banks to move beyond borders, the bank continues to be focused on Asia, given the attractive growth rates of about 6 per cent found in this region, said Mr Gupta.

"We think the biggest opportunity continues to be in our backyard. Asia is a great place to allocate capital," he said. "While we remain rooted to Asia, Asia is rapidly changing, like the rest of the world. With the ubiquity of the smartphone, the explosion of data and the rising of the sharing economy, customer behaviours are dramatically different from what they were before."

DBS also said it has been offering the world's first online treasury and cash management simulation tool, which allows chief financial officers and corporate treasurers to manage and project their cash positions simply.

It plans as well to help social entrepreneurs further through grants, banking services, mentorships, and a platform for fund pitching.