Banks are getting into the digital future, and the latest to announce that it was doing so is Singapore’s DBS, Southeast Asia’s largest bank. The group’s Chief Information Officer Jimmy Ng told a Japanese business publication that the company is exploring ways it could function in the digital space, particularly in the much-talked-about metaverse. However, the company may still need to keep its VR goggles off as it faces new competition from some of Singapore’s tech leaders, including Grab, in the consumer finance space.
In an interview with Nikkei Asia, Ng said that DBS has been investing S$1B a year over the past decade in technologies such as the cloud and AI. He added that they are looking into new technologies such as the metaverse, even as they are evolving. He said that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) would be a way forward as they were engaging with emerging technologies. While very few details were given about how they might actually do that, the bank official concluded that they would be able to translate what they were already doing into that brave new digital world. He also added that all these new technologies would be game-changers in the banking industry.
The Nikkei Asia report cited what another major financial institution, JP Morgan, recently decided to do when it opened its Onyx Lounge in the Decentraland virtual space. (The virtual space, powered by the blockchain, is also where Unilever is setting up its Closeup City Hall of Love.) In a report published on the NASDAQ website, Christine Moy, Head of Cryptocurrency and the Metaverse, said that the company was working to educate clients on the metaverse and its effects on the way people live and do business. The report added that JP Morgan plans to turn this customer lounge into a full-blown virtual banking operation, which is light-years away from logging on to the JP Morgan website to check one’s investment account.
As DBS hopes to match JP Morgan’s ambitions, they are also facing new rivals from Singapore’s tech sector. In 2020, the Monetary Authority of Singapore decided to grant the country’s first four digital banking licenses. The goal is to help extend banking services to underserved sectors. Among the four chosen are a joint venture between Grab and Singtel and a firm operated by Sea Ltd, owners of Shopee. Both were licensed to offer services to both retail and commercial clients. In March 2022, Vulcan Post reported that the Grab-Singtel venture, now known as GXS Bank, was rolling out banking products such as loans and cash advances in advance of its full launch later this year.
DBS is unfazed by the competition, however, with Ng saying that what mattered was how technology enhances the customer experience. Even a company like DBS, however, needs to deal with how tech also makes the experience difficult. In November 2021, its online banking services were down for 15 hours due to access server issues, causing great unease among its clients.
DBS, one of Asia’s largest banks, told Nikkei Asia that it was exploring the metaverse and NFTs as a way forward for its banking ventures, saying that these technologies were a game-changer for the industry.
DBS’ announcement comes in the wake of JP Morgan’s move to set up what will become a banking centre in a prominent virtual world.
However, the Singapore-based bank is facing new competition at home from some of Singapore’s tech giants, including Grab and Sea Ltd, both of whom will be launching their digital banking services this year.