Singapore’s Best Bank and Best Investment Bank 2018: DBS

Singapore’s biggest bank is not only leading the way in digital transformation, but also in the equity and debt capital markets league tables in Singapore.

DBS under chief executive Piyush Gupta had an outstanding year and was a competitor for the region’s top award. Singapore accounted for S$7.8 billion ($5.7 billion) of total bank income of S$11.9 billion in 2017 and the bank was able to make heavy provisions against its troublesome oil and gas exposures and still generate a record S$4.39 billion in group net profit.

DBS’s strength in digital transformation, transaction services and SME banking are covered in the regional awards. In the background, DBS’s consumer banking division is doing well, growing 9% in 2017 to S$4.67 billion, most of it at home in Singapore.

The bank’s impressive wealth management business has gone from strength to strength under Tan Su Shan; it now accounts for 18% of total group income and makes good use of the bank’s digital excellence. Several enhancements were made to the DBS iWealth platform during the review period; with ANZ’s assets now incorporated, this division has critical mass and big ambitions.

It is always a sign of grudging advocacy when investment banking competitors start pitch meetings by saying: “If you count out DBS…” But why would you count out DBS? One would expect it to get on most state-related deals and its own self-led bonds, but these days the state is not the be-all and end-all of market activity. DBS’s position atop the equity and debt capital markets league tables in Singapore is at least as much through merit as convenience.

A clear leader in Singapore dollar bonds, it is an innovator too, pushing the development of the corporate perpetual securities market. It is a leader in Asean real estate investment trusts – which was almost the only active area in Singapore equities – and handled the Netlink NBN Trust IPO.

Outside capital markets, a strong advisory business has taken advantage of Singapore-China flows, and DBS has been involved in almost everything in that corridor over the last three years. It was among the advisers to the buying consortium of the Global Logistics Properties portfolio for S$15.9 billion, the region’s key advisory deal, and the sale of CWT to HNA Group. It also helped Blackstone to buy the Croesus Retail Trust.

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