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DBS Continues To Be Studied As Model For Digital Transformation

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Harvard Business School is the latest academic institution to capture the bank’s successful transformation journey in a case study that is being taught to its MBA students

HONG KONG SAR 27 February 2023 – DBS continues to be studied as a transformation role model, with Harvard Business School (HBS) being the latest academic institution to capture the bank’s successful digital transformation journey in a case study.

The DBS case is being taught in HBS’ Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme and its executive education courses by Professor Ranjay Gulati, Paul R. Lawrence MBA Class of 1942 Professor of Business Administration. Gulati was ranked as one of the top ten most cited scholars in Economics and Business over a decade by ISI-Incite. He is also the author of six bestselling books on strategy, organisational effectiveness and leadership in organisations[1].

Gulati said, “Businesses need to transform themselves in order to compete in today’s fast-changing markets. I was interested in studying how DBS transformed itself successfully, and to find out what they did and how they executed it. Through my numerous conversations with the bank’s executives, what came across very strongly were the digital and purpose-focused elements of the transformation and how these permeated every level of the organisation. The willingness from the leadership to resource the change enabled a building up of the workforce’s innovation ‘muscles’ to create a startup culture – quite a feat for an organisation of 33,000 people.”

DBS CEO Piyush Gupta said “Behaving like a startup meant shifting the bank’s mindset from that of a mature multinational to one that is more nimble, more agile; one which is constantly learning, experimenting and innovating on the fly. To effect this change at scale, we had to teach our people how to use the tools of innovation and provide them with opportunities to apply these tools in an environment where it is safe to take risks. This effective culture shift created through a programme of ‘culture by design’ has been instrumental to our success so far, and will be key as we navigate the disruptions in our industry going ahead.”

The HBS case study was put together over a span of 15 months through a series of interviews between Gulati and DBS’ leadership team. Learn more about the DBS case study at Harvard Business Publishing’s repository here.

Gupta was also interviewed on an episode of Gulati’s newest podcast series “Deep Purpose” in December 2022. The conversation complements the case study and nicely sums up the development stages of the bank, digital transformation, building a technology company, being customer-centric and Gupta’s leadership style. Both the recording and transcript are accessible here.

In 2022, DBS was named “World’s Best Bank” by US-based financial publication Global Finance. This makes it the seventh best bank in the world award it has won in the past five years. DBS was also the only Singapore-headquartered company to be recognised as one of the Top 100 Best Workplaces for Innovators by US-based Fast Company.

Other institutions which have written case studies on DBS include INSEAD, the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), IESE, Singapore Management University and Nanyang Technological University.


[1] Ranjay Gulati’s website https://ranjaygulati.com/ and profile page on HBS’ website https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=77265.

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