Planting the seeds of innovation at DBS

We find out how award-winning Chief Innovation Officer, Neal Cross, is creating and nurturing an innovation-driven culture in his organisation.

By Nurdianah Md Nur
Sept. 13, 2016


To further inspire its employees to innovate, DBS regularly invites innovators from around the world to share about their innovation journeys. "The monthly Imaginarium talks aim to expose our people to different ideas and perspectives, and get them to start thinking how else they can apply those kinds of learning and thinking in their everyday job," Cross explained.

Besides encouraging innovation from within the organisation, DBS is also supporting the start-up community through its pre-accelerator incubation programme. "Through the DBS HotSpot programme, we've brought in relatively young start-ups who are still in their infant stages, given them seed money without requiring equity from them, provided them working spaces as well as given them access to leading entrepreneurs to guide and mentor them. This is about creating an ecosystem where DBS as an organisation can learn from these young start-ups, but also for our own people to give back and share their own experiences and learnings to eager entrepreneurs," Cross commented.

He added: "As part of our HotSpot programme, we're also encouraging people within DBS to join, build their own start-up idea, and perhaps launch their own company. They're given sabbaticals from work to explore their ideas. The idea is, the problem they solve could be highly beneficial for DBS. As an organisation, we need to know that sometimes, the best ideas don't come from us and it's important that we start building future partnerships and collaborations and this is one of the best ways to introduce and foster innovation culture into the company."

Apart from partnering enterprises, DBS is also collaborating with Singapore universities to bring in "high potential talent to solve real business issues" at the bank. "The point of the UNI.CORN programme was to provide students real-life working experience by letting them run their own project and team with a challenge issued by us. I'm proud to say that within just 12 weeks, those students were able to develop solutions through extensive research, experimentation and prototyping such that there are business units in DBS looking to adopt these students' ideas," Cross explained.  

"Most organisations are struggling to get innovation right because they view it as the responsibility of a department, or a mindset that only a few special individuals have. Rather, what we're trying to do is to create an ecosystem, one that is sustainable and can create more value for our organisation in the long-term," he said.

So far, DBS has conducted 1,200 experiments, of which 120 of them have been prototyped. One prototype that has been rolled out to its customers in India is digibank. Breaking away from conventional banking norms with their onerous form-filling and cumbersome processes, digibank is a mobile-only bank which is completely paperless, signatureless and branchless bank, according to DBS.  

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