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DBS Bank's Head of Digital Wealth, Evy Theunis Shares the Bank's Commitment to Helping its Customers Achieve Financial Security

2019-04-08 20:37 1060

SINGAPORE, April 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- THE DIGITAL BANKER will host its maiden Global Private Banking Innovation Awards Gala Dinner in Singapore on 9 May and recently launched a newsletter featuring DBS Bank.

Evy Theunis, Head of Digital Wealth of DBS Bank
Evy Theunis, Head of Digital Wealth of DBS Bank

DBS Bank is quickly gaining clout as one of the world's best banks. With enviable digitally enabled and omnichannel service models, the bank continues to push boundaries and is emphatically raising the bar in service delivery. THE DIGITAL BANKER had an exclusive interview with Evy Theunis, Head of Digital Wealth of DBS Bank, who talks strategy & the future of private banking.

Interview transcript

Q: How much of an impact has digitisation and automation had on fee models -- do you envisage this to accentuate over the next few years?

The digital push has enabled greater transparency, which in turn transformed the nature of customer activity and widened the gap between those that can provide customers with such transparency in a simple way, versus those that can't.

With the Internet at their fingertips, today's clients are much more aware of the options available to them and can easily check, evaluate and compare prices in real-time -- pushing private banks to go beyond the price game, and differentiate themselves by focusing on providing quality advice more than ever before.

For clients who do not require advice, digitisation has enabled them to take a do-it-yourself approach to investment -- for example, our clients can now get the latest view of their portfolio and execute equity trades, fund purchases and more on their own online at any time of the day via DBS iWealth, our all-in-one integrated wealth management platform. They can even leverage online without having to go through a relationship manager.

Services, offerings and the way we engage with customers, have also evolved as expectations of, and the need for, convenience and ease of access become increasingly key. To this end, we recently launched DBS digiPortfolio, a hybrid platform that brings together human expertise and robo-advisory, which allows customers to buy into an investment portfolio at an affordable cost with just a few clicks.

Q: What new digital capabilities are HNW and UHNW clients demanding and how prepared are legacy systems to meet these demands?

From my point of view, "legacy" is a loose term. You can have a state-of-the-art back-end system, but still face scalability issues if it was built in a non-agile manner. However, so long as there is focus on automating the entire process, it is still possible to achieve an architecture that at least addresses the customers' fundamental demands, even with these monoliths.

Beyond that, it is also important to explore and tap into other technology solutions, such as those developed by FinTechs. For example, we worked with robo-advisory start-up Quantifeed to build our recently launched DBS digiPortfolio platform, as well as with Kasisto, the creators of KAI, a conversational AI platform that powers smart bots and virtual assistants with deep banking knowledge, to enable customer conversations and deeper engagement on DBS iWealth.

Q: Private Banking has traditionally been monopolised by male bankers and clients. As the number of female clients grow, and technology continues to augment digital services, are you noticing a unique impact on your female clients?

I'm glad to say that this assumption doesn't apply to DBS! The proportion of our female wealth RMs across the organisation has stayed relatively constant at 51% from 2013 to 2018.

As for clients -- we have observed that our female clients tend to be less active on digital investment platforms as compared to the men. That said, these observations aren't prescriptive, especially as society continues to evolve and become increasingly digital-savvy over time -- gender lines are blurring and age-old stereotypes no longer hold.

Our view is that every individual's needs are unique and can't be categorised by gender. Instead, these are determined by the job or activity at hand. As such, we focus on understanding our clients as individuals, and enhancing our digital offering based on individual characteristics, such as their investment styles, priorities and preferences.

Q: There are more active users on Social and Chat platforms than the population of human beings on the planet.  How do you think about this in terms of your existing businesses? Does it represent an opportunity or threat?

I see this as an opportunity. Chat platforms can enable relationship managers to create deeper relationships with their clients, especially for the younger generation, and also allow speedier service delivery to clients. You may not call someone daily, but you don't necessarily have the same limitation with chats.

To enable our RMs to leverage this rising trend, we launched DBS Wealth Chat last year, a service that allows DBS' wealth clients to interact, exchange ideas and transact with their RMs via popular instant messaging platforms. We made the decision to go to where our clients are.

Q: How widespread within DBS is data analytics in driving product/service personalisation, and can you share some success stories in the use of advanced analytics?

We heavily rely on data when developing and enhancing our features. The likes of analytics, 5-star ratings, customer feedback and behavioural patterns give us a wealth of information on how our customers are interacting with us, and what they would like to see next.

With DBS iWealth, analytics showed us that making simple navigational improvements or introducing new features, such as the 'privacy feature' or 'favourite holdings' directly correlated with increased customer satisfaction. It also helped to identify areas where we need to adjust our tech capabilities -- for example, reducing scheduled maintenance of our back-end systems as customers are entering the trades over the weekend.

Q: Arguably, FinTech disruption is only in its infancy, as Open Banking, Blockchain and TechFin begin to pick up momentum -- how much of a change do you anticipate to legacy banking models over the next 5 years?

We're in an era of change, and industries are being disrupted constantly -- which is a good thing! It pushes us to think out of the box and challenge our boundaries. Being able to develop our own response to change is essential, in which technology serves as a key enabler.

New technologies give us the ability to provide better experiences to clients, lower costs and simplify processes, and it is therefore key to act fast when these become available, which is what we have been focusing on. It's also important to bring the organisation along in this journey.

Q: DBS is customer obsessed, with a mission to be digital to the core. That means digitising the middleware, back-end and front-end, as opposed to simply building apps. What truly sets DBS iWealth apart from other platforms?

We don't believe in doing this as a one-off. DBS has consistently been investing in digital for our retail and wealth customers over the years, and hasn't slowed down; instead, we continue to invest and enhance our capabilities on an ongoing basis. It's also critical to ensure the investment isn't just on the front-end; it must be front-to-back. You need strong back-end architecture and systems to enable excellent front-end client experiences -- can't have one without the other.

Taking DBS iWealth as an example, you might say it's quite complete in terms of all plain vanilla features including portfolio monitoring, tools, alerts, and even leveraging. But we don't want to stop there. We're continually relooking our technology stack, improving usability based on insights gleaned from customer feedback and behavioural patterns, and innovating.

Q: Finally, what would you say are the three things (work related) that keep you awake at night?

The three things are:

  • How can we give the best advice out to a large group of customers efficiently?
  • How do we give all customers access to the best possible wealth experience?
  • How can we increase engagement with our customers in a meaningful way?

My hope is to be able to help all customers with limited time and knowledge to better prepare for their future, and ultimately achieve financial security -- and being able to accomplish these three things are key.

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Source: Coeus Intelligence
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