After two years, OCBC loses its crown to local peer DBS this year as Euromoney’s best bank for small and medium-sized enterprises. The two Singapore houses remain almost unique in building a meaningful SME business that operates across borders.
In DBS’s case, while the meat of the business is at home or in Hong Kong, it also operates in India, China, Indonesia and Taiwan. And business here is growing. Revenue from markets outside Singapore grew 53% in 2018, a third consecutive year of 50%-plus growth.
Generally, the SME operations benefit from the same digital tailwinds as everything else at DBS. While the customer base grew only 4% year on year, transaction volumes grew 34% and volumes through the digital channel 72%; revenue per digital customer was up 10%. The aim is to make banking simpler, faster and smarter for SMEs, with digital initiatives assisting all three ambitions.
At DBS as at OCBC, customer acquisition is early, quick and simple, and can be done in a day. DBS, under CEO Piyush Gupta, is enjoying traction with a multi-currency account targeting SMEs with cross-border transactions that helps businesses manage their FX risks with a real-time FX dashboard. The DBS BusinessClass mobile app is a useful connection and engagement tool – its regional member base more than doubled from 33,000 to 80,000 in 2017. And in a moment of public-spirited solidarity, DBS is one of the backers of the 99% SME national campaign in Singapore to rally consumers to buy from small businesses.
Alongside all this, DBS’s investment bank, one of the most powerful in southeast Asia and big in Greater China, offers the capital-market and advisory services that SMEs may require later in their life cycle. It prides itself on what it calls cross-border matchmaking, helping businesses find the right targets to acquire or at least work with.
Growth will be assisted by initiatives like DBS-Tally, which helps SMEs in India transact; already it has achieved acquisition numbers in five months equivalent to what took five years in India previously.
Copyright Euromoney magazine