Going GA-GA over innovation

Graduate Associates of DBS (L-R): Henry Soon; Jaysee Eisvran; Iliana Ishak; Tan Jia Jun; Ophelia Chew

Having explored DBS and our innovation centre, five newly-minted graduates share their perspectives on banking reimagined

Fresh out of the lecture hall and almost at the end of their Graduate Associate (GA) orientation, five Graduate Associates at DBS sat down with us for a chat after they toured DBS Asia X (DAX) for the first time. Did their expectations of the programme match reality? What do they have to say about their future?

It’s been almost a month since your orientation programme at DBS. Why do you think you were selected to be a GA?

Jaysee: Coming from a design background, I think I bring to the table an alternate perspective. We knew from the start that DBS isn’t just looking for business school graduates. It’s also about leadership qualities.

Iliana: Same here – I’m from design. I was initially looking for a design role with DBS but I was surprised they asked if I would consider interviewing for the GA position. So here I am!

Ophelia: I believe that the selection criteria are beyond our academic grades. I’ve been involved in non-profit organisations, start-ups and internships at MNCs. I believe these experiences count.

Henry: It’s definitely not just about grades. Being well-rounded matters. I’ve worked in a tech start-up and I’m now actively involved in a social enterprise. These help me prepare for what’s to come.

Jia Jun: I think that among us, my profile is the most typical of a bank employee. Yet I don’t think that got me in. I’m guessing it’s also the variety of activities I was involved in that got me noticed.

It’s always about mixing it up, isn’t it? You must have heard quite a lot about reimagining banking during your orientation. What’s your take on innovation?

Jaysee: It’s an integral part of everything that DBS does. At the same time, it is not just about innovation but also the embodiment of DBS’ PRIDE values. The results speak for themselves in the products that are created.

Jia Jun: That’s true. Innovation is not just lip service in DBS. It is part of everything that we do. It’s about being customer-centric and data-driven.

Ophelia: Innovation is not only driven by the assigned innovation teams. Everyone is involved when it comes to the customer journey.

Iliana: Beyond new products or services, innovation could be about improvements to internal processes that are not visible to the customer. Employees are very much part of the equation that enables the customer experience.

Henry: There’s a saying that “business is tech and tech is business” – a solution should be looked at in totality instead of separating between the tech team and the business team. Everyone takes ownership. Spaces like DAX allow for such collaborations to take place.

Speaking of DAX, what was your impression when you first stepped into the innovation centre?

Jia Jun: It looks like the entrance of a really cool club!

Henry: It reminds me of other established start-up companies that I have been to – open, with collaborative spaces that have nicely-coloured, comfy furniture; plenty of post-its stuck around the place!

DAX is home to many of the innovation projects across the bank. Were you involved in any form of innovation before you joined?

Iliana: My project in university involved a tool for kidney dialysis. Long story short, we created an artificial biological environment and eliminated the need for hospitals to test the product on an actual person or animal. Rapid prototyping was necessary for us to get the results in a limited amount of time – fail fast and move forward.

Henry: I redefined the traditional role of the elderly who are mostly perceived as beneficiaries of social work. Instead of just youth offering their services, we decided to create an interpersonal exchange of skills between the elderly and youth segments. The elderly would impart traditional skills such as baking and sewing to younger people, while the younger ones would share tips about technology with the elderly. This empowers both communities to contribute and benefit from one another.

Sounds meaningful! What are some other skills you would like to have to help you drive innovation?

Ophelia: It’d be great to design products for app development. I want to look at customer journey and compliance matters too. It will give me an edge in examining rules and loopholes, and allow me to improve risk management.

Iliana: Web development for me. I want to get into all the technicalities about coding so I’d know what the challenges are. I get to push boundaries more reasonably when I am handling a project if I know the limitations.

The Graduate Associate Programme at DBS offers training that is based on a mix of experience, education and exposure for new hires to be orientated within a specific department. The fast-track programme provides intensive training, with curriculum ranging from banking and financial skills and concepts, to business and personal effectiveness modules. As part of their orientation programme, graduate associates are invited to experience different components of the bank, including the innovation centre, DBS Asia X.