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In 2008, the year David Gledhill went to work for DBS Bank, few would have predicted that within a decade the Singapore-based bank would be racking up an impressive slate of honors. Nonetheless, DBS was the first recipient of Euromoney’s Best Digital Bank Award in 2016; it received that distinction again in 2018 and, that same year, was also named Global Finance’s Best Bank in the World.

Just a decade ago, however, DBS, beset by long lines at branches and ATMs, high turnover among relationship managers, and a plodding credit card application process, had the worst customer satisfaction scores of all the banks in Singapore. Chief data and transformation officer Paul Cobban, who came aboard in 2009, recalls that “it was almost embarrassing to tell people at dinner parties” that he worked for the bank “because DBS had such a bad reputation.”

Executives did not simply change their performance management systems to achieve these goals. They redefined the meaning and measurement of performance.

Soon after Cobban joined, a newly arranged management team, with the support of tech-savvy CEO Piyush Gupta, turned things around by thinking of DBS as more of a tech startup than a bank. Gledhill, DBS’s CIO, says, “Our future competition wasn’t going to come from just banks, but from a lot of cool technology companies that were going into finance.” DBS, in Gledhill’s words, committed to becoming “digital to the core,” and he and his team initiated a thoroughgoing culture change to support digital innovation.

Executives did not simply change their performance management systems to achieve these goals.

About the Research
About the Authors:

David Kiron is the executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review’s Big Ideas Initiative, which brings ideas from the world of thinkers to the executives and managers who use them.

Barbara Spindel is a writer and editor specializing in culture, history, and politics. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies.


Michael Fitzgerald, Carolyn Ann Geason, Allison Ryder, and Karina van Berkum


David Gledhill, CIO, DBS Bank

Paul Cobban, chief data and transformation officer, DBS Bank

Geeta Sreeraman, head of customer center, DBS Bank

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