A quintessential capability-led transformation
Its not about saving jobs; its about saving people
Lee Yan Hong is the Managing Director and Head of Group Human Resources at DBS Bank. She holds more than 25 years of Human Capital management experience across a spectrum of industries, specializations, coverage and geographies. At DBS, Yan Hong drives the overall strategic people agenda of the Group and has been recognized for taking a proactive approach in building best practices in HR, setting the direction and spearheading various functions and initiatives in the organizational growth of the Bank.
Under her leadership, DBS has won several accolades – winner of Gallup’s Great Workplace Award; listed as one of the Top Companies for Leaders globally by Aon Hewitt; being conferred the SG50 Special Award category in Best Companies for Mums Awards from NTUC in Singapore, named Bloomberg Businessweek’s Financial Institution Awards – Training Academy of the Year in Hong Kong and Universum’s Top 100 Most Attractive Employers by business undergraduates in China, all in recognition for good HR practices. Yan Hong represented DBS as a member for one of the ASPIRE Review committees. She was a committee member of the Human Resource (HR) Skills Council for WDA and committee member of the HCLI CHRO Advisory Panel.
During her time in General Motors, Hewlett Packard and Citigroup, she had a track record that included a broad coverage in areas of compensation and benefits, talent and performance management, learning and development, employee relations, and organizational design. “Live more, Bank less” is DBS’ new ethos, reflecting a conviction that the time has come for a new kind of banking. Reimagining banking is a priority in recent years – thinking of customer journeys and how banking should be simple, seamless and invisible so that people can spend time on things they care about and truly live more. To drive this agenda, digital transformation is happening across the organization; from creating new experiences and interactions with customers, to employees embracing a data-driven mindset and a start-up culture. By instituting an A-to-E framework, an integrated approach to doing business and driving purpose driven results for our customers, employees, regulators and the society at large, DBS is the epitome of digital transformation and redefining the category as we know it.
How did DBS transform itself to a Digital Bank?
Digital disruption impacts all aspects of our lives, banking is not spared and it was the biggest impetus for our transformation. The reality is that IF YOU DON’T CHANGE, YOU DIE. So, we set a big hairy audacious goal — to become the Best Digital Bank in the world. This became a galvanizing force for all of us to re-imagine Banking and transform ourselves from a traditional bank to a digital bank.
DBS A to E Journey:
A - Big Hairy Audacious Goal
This 'Big Hairy Audacious Goal' was the rallying call that galvanized us into action. Every one of us had it in our scorecards to drive digital in one form or another in our departments. A great framework that we employed was ATE – Acquire, Transact and Engage our customers digitally.
B - Buy and Build talent
To jumpstart our digital journey, we realized that we needed skills and mindsets that we did not possess at the time. This meant "buying" talent who were very different from us – people with a start-up mentality- operate in an agile way, willing to experiment, focused on design thinking and not devoted to the status quo. We wanted that to rub off on our culture and people.
To build a digital mindset among our staff, we introduced an experimental form of training. We teamed seven or eight DBS employees with a couple of people from start-ups, put them through a five-day hackathon: one day devoted to understanding technology and skill building in human-centred design, three days of working together with start-ups to help code and create an app. We gave them mattresses, ping-pong tables and free-flowing food and beer, but at the end of 72 hours, they had to have an app to be presented to the judging team.
In many cases, the team came up with pretty good apps but the real power came from recognizing that they could actually create an app regardless of their background and experience. We started the ‘experiment’ with young people in their 20s and 30s. By the third hackathon, we had 40- and 50-year-olds and other employees not naturally comfortable with technology. The new discovery and realization that they could do things differently and make a real impact boosted their confidence and self-belief tremendously.
Additionally, we created an entire Digital Institute to train staff in areas such as digital awareness, coding, design thinking, data analytics, UX and digital marketing.
C - Culture
We needed to operate with a different level of energy, drive and speed. Changing the mindset of the people and culture of the Bank to be more similar to that of a tech start-up: nimble, bold enough to take risks and experiment, not devoted to status quo, less hierarchical and rules-based. It was not easy, but we started with the most mundane stuff such as addressing everyone by their first name, simplifying policies, rewriting DOAs, encouraging staff to speak up and recommend ideas and experiment. We also celebrated and recognized staff for the digital ideas and efforts.
Using data analytics tools, we garnered insights to better serve our internal and external customers by improving their journeys. In my department, we have leveraged human capital analytics to predict attrition, optimize rewards, enhance sales productivity and improve hiring. We are able to predict staff attrition with a 76% accuracy rate, for a POSB RM and our Audit team is able to predict rogue traders and which branch will pass the next internal audit!
E- Focus on “Employees”
You can have your tools and data, but it all comes down to people. As such, we worked hard to win the heads and the hearts of our staff. It was important that they felt valued and experienced growth and fun in this journey too. To better engage them, various initiatives – DBS Cares, Banking Privileges, iHealth, iFlex, 2+2, 5@5, Xplore, STAR – were launched. Once we are able to win their hearts and heads, the mission became an unstoppable movement!
You can have your tools and your data but it all comes down to people
Making such changes require a lot of commitment as well as time. How was this managed?
Yes, it is constant and pervasive across the organization. Our slogan “Making Banking Joyful” makes it easy to relate as it resonates with staff to simplify and make the customer journey joyful e.g. in HR, the way we recruit, the way we train, the way we pay, and the way we appraise our staff were all reimagined to make the experience joyful for employees. We also make it fun by creating competitions and recognizing staff.
Give us a few solutions that you were able to find through this process.
One of the few things that we did was to digitize the entire employee lifecycle from recruitment, onboarding to off-boarding. We have a Chatbot – HIRI that answers benefits related questions. JIM – our AI for recruitment reduces the resume screening from 45mins to 5mins. “ITQ” is another app that staff can use to thank or recognize any of your colleagues across the DBS Group in 18 countries. DPU – DBS Power App is an employee app that allows you to Get Information, Complete Tasks and Connect with colleagues on the Go.
How crucial is the element of ‘people’ in digital transformation?
You can have your tools and data but it all comes down to employees. Once the employees’ Purpose is aligned with the Bank’s Purpose and staff feel that DBS is a Great Place to work, you can propel this forward. At DBS, we create a supportive environment where each of our 26,000 employees can Live fulfilled – Be the Best, Be the Change and Be the Difference.
Employees are empowered to learn, take on new opportunities across the Bank and future-proof themselves for the digital economy. Through different platforms and tailored benefits, employees have the flexibility to choose what works best for them. We bring employees together through appreciation and recognition programmes so they feel valued, connected to our purpose and can Be the Best.
Our leaders inspire employees to innovate and reimagine banking. We are encouraged to challenge the status quo and drive changes around the way we work. Collaborative workspaces encourage fresh perspectives, experimentation and to have fun along the way. There are many opportunities to Be the Change and create impact as we build a sustainable future and to Be the Difference not only at an individual level but also to the communities.
When you look ahead, what are the big rocks you are looking at?
Digital, AI will continue to disrupt all aspects of work and life. It’s not about saving jobs; it's about saving people.
Building skills to fight tomorrow’s war is critical. Redesigning jobs, redeploying staff, reskilling, train and retrain staff are all essential. In this respect, we have set aside 20mm to help our employees enhance their capabilities.