Video Podcast: Scaling Wealth Platforms To Accelerate Digitization For Banks Post-Pandemic

By Sreekanth Anasa | Apr 21, 2022

In a video podcast with EnrichVideo’s cofounder Poorna Nayak, Seshu Devineni, technology lead discusses what it takes to scale enterprise-grade software for banks. Client-centricity has always been at the core of DBS Bank's digital journey, and Seshu mentions how they apply it to all their initiatives as he leads the bank's iWealth Platform team.

Introduction

Poorna: Hi I am Poorna, cofounder of EnrichVideo, a customer engagement platform for banks and wealth management firms. Today I have with me Seshu Devineni, technology lead at wealth platforms group at DBS Bank, Singapore. Thank you Seshu for joining in today. It’s great to have you for this podcast. First off, congratulations to the entire DBS Bank technology team on winning the prestigious award for the most innovative digital bank of the year. DBS Bank has also been winning the EuroMoney “best bank” in the world award for 4 years in a row now.

Seshu: Thank you Poorna, thank you for hosting me here. It has been a exciting journey for me with DBS. And I think it's a coincidence, because it's my work anniversary, 8 years, and it still feels like day one, the same level of motivation and energy for me. In terms of the work? Yeah. So I think the accolades that we have been receiving, I think it's all thanks to the focus, the customer focus that we have, like initiatives that we build from improving the customer experience. And I think that paid off, I would say.

Digital Tranformation In Banking Post Pandemic

Poorna: Awesome. So let me start with some questions. So the pandemic has, you know, forced us to accelerate digital adoption. Tell us what has kept you busy as a technology lead at DBS wealth platform during the last two years.

Seshu: Yes. So yeah, it's an interesting journey, like DBS has started a few years ago, in order to digitalize all the services today that are offered by a branch and you know, relationship managers. And DBS has been a pioneer, especially in Singapore market. I would say, in terms of digital adoption, there's various services that we offer on our digital platform. And pandemic made it even more important, it basically attested that, yeah, this is why you had to do it.

Right, like and last two years have been more focused on how do we engage clients. As they can't reach to our branches, they can't travel, there are lot of restrictions around travel, and the focus has always been on moving the paper based services onto the digital platform, then on top of that, generating more insights for customers to make their decisions, like investment decisions more seamless, and easier, in a way, like they don't need to monitor volatility of the market. Because of the pandemic there has been a lot of turbulence in terms of even the stock market. And we have used AI and ML based models in order to identify, you know based on the past patterns, we have generated a lot of insights for customers to make their decisions better. That has been the core work that has been going on, and more to come.

Poorna: Okay, so what do you think are the big trends you're seeing in now? Well, tech, post this, you know, pandemic?

Seshu: Yeah. I think, the way I see right now, customers, they're fedup of not being able to meet personally, I think that's also another area, which is the result of the pandemic. And our focus also has been in how we integrate our online digital services to our offline, like, where, if certain services we want customers to, you know, have that physical interaction as well and even relationship managers to reach out to the clients to give better advice. Where at certain times, I think clients may not be in a position to make a decision, even with the information that's available, so we want to bridge that gap as well. And most importantly, the experience and a lot of improvements based on the customer feedback has been taken into account and the user experience team consistently continuously works with various clients, take their feedback and improve on the customer journeys.

Poorna: Okay, so to understand you say the future would be more of a hybrid approach. Is that what you're trying to come at?

Seshu: Yeah, so I think the future is hybrid more with a personal touch, basically.

Scaling Technology For A Large User Base

Poorna: So we know that DBS merged the iWealth app with Digibank. It must have been a massive exercise given DBS Bank's scale. Share that transformation journey with us.

Seshu: Yeah, so it has not been an easy journey. But yes, it's an exciting journey. And the most important are the focus that has gone in, in the processes to have the seamless experience for our customers. So today, the wealth or the iWealth in the past has been more focused on wealth management and investments. And the digibanking is basically our day-to-day everyday banking. And it's for the same purpose as in we want to give the best of both worlds to our clients. And that's how the journey started. seamless customer experience. And there were a lot of challenges in terms of how we align a lot of technology and business, because we have been putting up the iWealth brand for years, and we had to make customers understand, okay, this is still the same, you're gonna get nothing less than what you have. Right? And it's to make the customers' lives even better.

Poorna: Okay, so there's a lot of talk that I hear these days, like, oh, we need to move to the cloud. We are already on the cloud, I guess cloud and scaling go hand in hand. Where is DBS bank in its cloud journey.

Seshu: Yeah. Cloud has always been in the heart of the innovation that is happening. So being a bank, we have a lot of legacy as well, like, coming from mainframes. And we have on the other side, we have the latest trending technologies we have built on AI, ML, 5G and all that. So it's a breadth of the technologies that we use in order to build this digibanking. And cloud has always been the pivot in order for us to scale and give our product high availability, right. And one of the most common problems is storage, and how do you scale your infrastructure, and DBS has heavily invested on multi cloud strategy not just sticking to a vendor, a particular vendor provider, but it's, it's built, we have built an in house cloud framework that can scale across multiple public clouds.

Poorna: DBS Bank probably has one of the largest user base when it comes to wealth management clients. With your three tier structure of DBS treasures, which is the mass affluent segment treasures private client segment and elite treasures private banking, what are the commonalities and differences when it comes to managing and scaling the wealth platform?

Seshu: Among all the tiers, one thing is a core, basically the investment and trading platform, there's commonality. And when it comes to PB or private banking or treasures private clients, the focus is how we tailor the product to suit their risk appetite. Right. And in terms of the services we want to give, it's more like given there are a lot of areas where the market is tending to like crypto, cryptocurrency and blockchain and this is an area of interest from a lot of investors. And DBS has been heavily focusing. We have built the DBS exchange, the crypto exchange has been launched in the past and we are also actively looking at digitizing the journeys for the clients. And this will start with our high net worth clients, PBN TBC, and eventually to all the customer base.

Importance Of Security & Complaince

Poorna: So when it comes to banking, security is always top priority. In security there are issues that come up regularly, like the recent log log4j vulnerability, I obviously don't expect you to share your security strategy. But what would your advice be to FinTech vendors when it comes to security compliance?

Seshu: So I think the key is to ensure all your products and services are secure. So that's the core of any financial institution. And being a financial institution, a lot of focus and regulators are on top of it to ensure that the bank is practicing the security standards. And when it comes to FinTech vendors, it's no different because in terms of how the platform scales from a fraud management perspective, and I think working or collaborating with MAS would probably be the key, like in terms of how your product is secure in order to scale across the market, especially in Singapore.

Poorna: Startups, always, you know, find it challenging to work with large enterprises, especially, you know, banks, how can vendors be enterprise ready? Or maybe I would say bank ready?

Seshu: Yeah. So, basically two parts, which we discussed just now, one is being cloud ready. You having a solution for the cloud, I think is part and parcel of all the startups today. So that won't be a challenging thing. But in terms of how to get bank ready is basically through compliance of the regulatories like, in my view, you build a product, you show a prototype, and get it certified by authorities, financial authorities, be it MAS, for Hong Kong HAMA. And likewise, we have for every country, we have the respective monetary authorities, and I think that will prepare even the banks to say that okay, this is a certified product. And this is the risk we are going to carry. Because when we look at RFIs we will obviously evaluate all the pros and cons from different products. And licensing cost is definitely there. But the key is how secure and how protected it is when it comes to implementing a solution on top of such a vendor product.

Poorna: Got it. So security is somewhere at the top and everybody needs to be aware of that.

Seshu: Monetary Authority of Singapore, known as MAS, is one of the strictest regulators in the world, like I heard from you also just now. Recently, they came up with the no links in emails policy, how are you handling this and many other MAS regulations?

Poorna: Yes, so I think that's definitely a hit to all the sales teams and not just in DBS, but everybody in Singapore market. And ya, we're coming up with alternate solutions, because we have very deep integrations with our customers through push notifications and inbox, which are secure, more secure when compared to emails or SMS. And when it comes to, you know, the conversion, even from a sales perspective, if you see, I think we had been engaged. We have engaged with you, we've partnered with you and in terms of engaging the customers over video statements, right. And we are also looking ways to increase engagement and sales through content which is relevant to the customers and actionable insights that can lead the customer to have better investments their way.

Client Centricity In Banking While Going Digital

Poorna: Would you be able to share some details about like, what kind of improvement in customer engagement you saw some ballpark figure or would that be confidential?

Seshu: Yeah, I mean, I would say in terms of utilizing push notifications, or the video statements, I would say the engagement has increased because of the conversion rate, especially because emails versus any other mode of transmission. And especially because if you look at how the industry has been Netflix, YouTube, everybody has a channel personal brand. And they're working because they're interactive. You get the customer's attention if it is a minute or two. And that's exactly what has happened with respect to the engagement score that we got with the personalized videos as well.

Poorna: DBS bank has a very strong technology team. How do you make the you know make versus buy decisions when it comes to technology?

Seshu: It's basically the balance of the cost versus benefit, we look at the return on investments, right. And there's. So when it comes to building or bringing a product, the key is the collaboration. I think it's always when it is sales pitch, it's about not just the product, but how, how flexible or how the vendor is, in terms of understanding the requirements and customization, as required. Because when it comes to longevity, it's basically collaboration, how well you collaborate with your clients. And that is also an area and on top of the security because being a bank, security comes first. The process itself is structured in a way that before any assessment, a security assessment is the first thing that is done, the due diligence is done. And that's how the onboarding happens when we look at a vendor product.

Poorna: Being a Digital First Bank, digital client engagement solutions are core to your strategy. I've been hearing it throughout our session, what are some of the innovations? And would you like to share some client response to these innovations? And what's coming up?

Seshu: Yeah, I mean, we want to deepen and use our (EnrichVideo) video platform for a deeper client engagement, because it has always been, what does the customer need, what do customers want. So when we look at that, they want more personalized information, be it insights, be it content that we show through videos, more relevant information, so that they can make better use of their time and money. And that has been the focus of our engagement strategy, as well be it through the digital video platform or being through a relationship manager, the focus has always been to increase the predictability for our clients when it comes to their investments. And that has been the focus.

So even, we're looking at an improved version of how the client managers portfolios, how the returns have been, and so that they can make better and informed decisions. And our response has been really good. And we have continuous feedback as well, like I said, in terms of the, how the workflow happens, it's always tested with the users, like they say, emotion, the client emotion. So we take client feedback, and improve, improve, improve on top of the feedback that we get from the clients.

Poorna: So I would like to conclude with my final question, what is going to keep you busy this year?

Seshu: It has been a lot of transformation going on. Like I said, we have mainframes still in banks. So that means it's not something that we can scale. So when we look at scaling our systems on cloud with the keys for us to transform into a modern technology stack, and that has been the core for all our innovation. And that will continue to take late this year as well. And that will be the busiest of things this year.

Poorna: Okay, great. Thanks for taking the time to be on this EnrichVideo podcast. As always, it's been great talking to you, a special thanks for giving advice to fintechs that are looking to work with banks. Thank you.

Seshu: Thank you. It's been my pleasure. Have a good day.

Poorna: Thank you.