- Published on 21 March 2016
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Interview: “Mentoring start-ups allows us to think customer centricity and think differently”
Neal Cross, the chief innovation officer of DBS Bank discusses how the bank’s accelerator for start-ups has transformed its culture.
DBS Bank has invested over SGD 10 million ($7.2 million) in initiatives that will support the development of the startup ecosystem in Singapore over the next five years. These initiatives include DBS owned programmes, partnerships with accelerators and other startup programmes.
DBS HotSpot, one of the first pre-accelerator programmes created by an Asian bank, kicks off the series of initiatives. The programme is designed to help very early stage startups develop their ideas by offering them a SGD25,000 ($17,900) entrepreneur award, workspace and access to industry mentors. DBS HotSpot does not require the startup to have an existing prototype or operating business. Importantly, DBS does not take an equity stake from the participating teams.
Neal Cross, chief innovation officer, DBS Bank, said: “We mentor them; coaching them for three months and giving them a grant of SGD25,000. More importantly we don’t take equity.”
Cross believes this benefits DBS in a number of ways. He elaborated: “Number one is most importantly around the culture change. Many DBS staff are part of this programme. Secondly, there are lots of mentors from DBS who have been engaged in the process. They got firsthand experience on what it’s like to be a start-up. And to think differently and to think creatively, think customer centricity and experiment and try things out rapidly.”
He explained that beyond culture change, the programme will result in tangible KPIs. “We have taken time in doing it right. So in our first year we are measuring activity. We have run 1,000 experiments and trained 500 staff. We are producing 120 product types. So we assume that activity will equal something tangible. Next year we are going to turn those KPIs into product and service launches that will impact customers. Thereafter, we will have definitive revenue from the value propositions,” he added.
Commenting on how Singapore is developing into a fintech and innovation hub, he said: “I see Singapore very much as a fast follower in this space. I am working really hard with my team and we want to see Singapore becoming the fintech hub of Asia. The beautiful thing about Singapore is that it is the only place I have ever seen in the world where the level of collaboration between public and private sector is unbelievable.”
Keywords: DBS, Start-ups, Fintech, Innovation Hub
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