1 April 2015

DBS boosts innovation with new twist to hackathons

Source: DBS. Participants brainstorm on ideas to tackle business challenges.

DBS has found a way to have both startups and its own employees benefit from hackathons. At the DBS MegaHackathon last week, the bank brought together 150 DBS employees and startups from around the region to tackle business and societal challenges, making DBS the first organisation in Singapore to build hackathons into its talent development programme, with employees creating prototypes alongside startups.

This initiative by DBS is driven by a desire to create a more digital mindset among its employees. The hackathon serves as a sandbox for employees to experiment like a startup, utilising lean startup methodology and human-centred design to identify and act on opportunities quickly. It also provides startups with the opportunity to interact with like-minded peers, understand business realities and showcase their capabilities.

Today, technology drives 99% of DBS’ interactions with its customers, and with more financial technology companies (fintechs) entering the traditional banking space, the digital agenda is a key priority for the bank. In addition to building technology infrastructure to support a more nimble organisation, DBS is also focused on making sure staff embrace innovation.

Said Dave Gledhill, Head of Group Technology & Operations at DBS: “Our industry is seeing an unprecedented pace of change and if we wish to remain relevant to our customers, our employees must embrace a culture of innovation and be intrapreneurs. At events such as the DBS MegaHackathon, our employees and startups can benefit from each other’s knowledge and expertise, as well as have a cultural exchange. 

"This fresh approach to hackathons has generated a number of viable working prototypes for the bank. We believe it will also help shape the startup ecosystem in Singapore by creating business opportunities for them.”

By making innovation a key focus of its talent development programme, DBS is also equipping its employees with skills and knowledge to shape the future of banking.

Said Lee Yan Hong, Head of Group Human Resources at DBS: “We are committed to providing opportunities for our employees to learn, develop and excel in their careers. As the bank embarks on its digital journey, it is essential for us to innovate and find new ways to groom the next generation of digitally-minded leaders through exposure, education and experiential learning.”

The five-day DBS MegaHackathon took place from 23 to 27 March at Block 79, Ayer Rajah, part of the newly expanded JTC Launchpad @ One-North startup cluster. The event kicked off with a two-day workshop to help DBS employees adopt a digital mindset and an outside-in approach to the customer journey. This was followed by a three-day hackathon where bank staff and startups teamed up to create 19 prototype mobile apps to better engage customers in an increasingly mobile world.

Judges at the DBS MegaHackathon included DBS CEO Piyush Gupta, DBS Chief Innovation Officer Neal Cross, DBS Head of Group Human Resources Lee Yan Hong and Venture Capitalist Jeffrey Paine. The three winning startups walked away with prizes of S$8,000, S$6,000 and S$4,000 respectively, while the rest were awarded S$2,000 each.

First prize winner BuUuk created iWealth, a 'go to' financial tool for those looking to grow their wealth. The mobile app enables learning through gamification, social sharing and engages customers with real rewards via the DBS iWealth website. 

“The DBS MegaHackathon provided a unique mix of perspectives and expertise required to tackle the challenges presented. We learnt to apply human-centred design to business solutions and learnt the importance of leveraging customer insights throughout the product creation process. As a startup, we’re always on the lookout for new ideas to work on, and the DBS MegaHackathon was an excellent platform for experimenting,” said Muh Hon Cheng, Co-Founder, BuUuk.

First runner-up QRInno worked on ShareCare, an app which connects caregivers to a support network that includes peers, social enterprises and other healthcare organisations. Through the mobile app, they can lend support to each other and achieve a better quality of life. 

“As a startup, it is important for us to collaborate with industry leaders like DBS if we want to truly make a difference. The DBS MegaHackathon was unique in the way it brings internal stakeholders and external collaborators together, and boosted the team’s overall expertise. The exposure to mentors and senior management from DBS was also a bonus. We look forward to exploring a mutually beneficial partnership with DBS in the future,” said Peter Shu, QMARGO Consultants Aggregator at QRInno. 

Eco Bear was the second runner-up, developing DBS Delight, an app to increase staff engagement, help staff embrace digital trends and use their time more efficiently. In addition to providing staff with access to work applications via their mobile, the app also makes performing HR functions such as leave application and claims management much simpler. 

“The DBS MegaHackathon is very different from a normal hackathon. Normally, we come in with an idea and just build that over 24 to 56 hours. This time round, we have to work with DBS staff on a blind challenge while getting them to think like a startup. It was an interesting experience and I learnt how to engage people outside of the startup community. It is really cool to see the team transform to come up with a winning idea,” said Jason Sigmon, who is part of the Eco Bear team.