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Innovation, iPads Transform Customer Experience At DBS Flagship Branch

The new DBS flagship location in Singapore integrates innovative technologies like touchscreen tablets and interactive motion-sensing video walls with strategic branch design.

DBS (which stands for Development Bank of Singapore) is a leading Asian bank with 200 branches in 15 markets. They have more than 4 million customers in Singapore alone. Their newest retail location in the Marina Bay Financial Center sprawls over 8,500 square feet, boasting features like iPads, digital queuing, electronic forms and virtual assistants with artificial intelligence.

World renowned branch design firm Allen International drove the project for DBS, with the banking technology wizards at Wincor Nixdorf shaping the branch’s core functionality.

DBS hopes the new flagship branch will serve as a blueprint for the future. It’s certainly an interesting project, and they clearly put a lot of thought into this space. It’s worth taking a closer look…

Retail Floor Plan

The floor plan for DBS is using for its new flagship location is divided into six main areas: the exterior zone, the welcome zone, the quick-service zone, the teller zone, the self-service zone and the consultative zone. DBS has created a special subsection on its website devoted to the new flagship branch, including a 360° interactive virtual tour (rotate and zoom).

Welcome Pods & Branch Ambassadors

Just to the left of the entrance, customers are greeted at “Welcome Pods,” compact ovular tables staffed by DBS “branch ambassadors.” These employees are functionally similar to the “concierge” or “greeters” stationed up front at other financial institutions, whose primary mission is to direct customers to the proper zone in the branch depending on complexity of need (think one part “service rep,” one part “traffic cop,” and one part “tour guide”).

The modular design of the Welcome Pods afford DBS maximum operational flexibility. There can be anywhere from one to four Welcome Pods, depending on branch traffic levels. Or there doesn’t have to be one at all. On weekends, for instance, the bank could decide to completely withdraw its Welcome Pods and no one would notice. But during peak activity, there could be a squad of staffers directing traffic.

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iPads and Digital Queueing

Customers requiring service get a queue number from one of the branch ambassadors. While waiting for their number to be called, they can use iPads located throughout the branch to complete any electronic forms that may be required.

By having customers use otherwise idle time to prepare information prior to conducting their transactions, DBS says it can cut the average time it takes to complete interactions in half. Indeed, DBS says tablet-based forms have helped them cut transaction times from 5 minutes down to 2 minutes, 30 seconds. That means the customer conducting the transaction is served more quickly, and the next customer in the queue spends less time waiting.

And, as a bonus, there’s a lot less paperwork… for everyone.

iPads docked on the side of seats in the waiting area are pre-installed with information on DBS and its services, including the bank’s DBS Shopper and DBS Internet Banking mobile apps.

Customers can use iPads to kill time and learn more about DBS, or (more practically) complete any necessary forms while they wait for their number in the queue.

Quick Serve Counters

Immediately to the right of the entrance are three quick-serve counters, designed to handle common customer requests in a casual setting with DBS employees and customers sitting across from each other on barstools. For instance, a customer who just needs a replacement ATM card doesn’t require an intimate, private or formal atmosphere, so they are directed to the quick-serve zone. It’s open and exposed to high traffic volumes, but that’s the point — get in, get out.

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Consultation Pods

Customers interested in discussing high value services — like a loan — will sit down and meet with a service agent in one of the six “Consultation Pods” surrounding the branch’s periphery. Each pod houses two separate meeting bays, where employees can meet with customers in a more private, sit-down setting. All pods have scanners and photocopy machines handy to maximize staff productivity.

Special cash-handling “Teller Assist Units” installed in the Consultation Pods allow service reps to accommodate a wide range of customer needs (both deposits and withdrawals). This capability, what DBS describes as “automated mini-vaults,” allows the benk to reduce teller and ATM queues during peak periods by funneling some portion of transactional activity over to staff in the Consultation Pods.

“Transactions at quick-serve counters should be finished in 10 to 15 minutes,” said Franchise Koh Cheng Hwee, an SVP with DBS. “Multiple-service requests can be served in the consultation pods, which are designed to service all banking requests.”

Interactive Video Wall With Virtual Assistant

Outside the branch, a huge interactive video wall captures the attention of passersby. Using hand gestures, people can interact with a motion-sensing virtual assistant named “New Asia,” whose charming looks and character is drawn from a current employee in the bank’s management associate program.

Wielding her artificial intelligence, New Asia helps users discover thought provoking insights on the Asian banking and finance scene. Users can also explore DBS services, features, promotions and rewards.

QR codes on the interactive wall give customers discounts to food and beverages within Marina Bay Financial Center.

DBS says the interactive MicroTile installation is both the first and largest of its kind in Asia.

Workplace of the Future

The new branch is only one small component of DBS Asia Central, the bank’s new headquarters at Marina Bay. Occupying 600,000 square feet on 18 of the 46 floors in Tower 3, the HQ is where 4,800 staff — half of the entire DBS workforce in Singapore — will now call home.

And a cozy new home indeed. Managers, who might normally claim corner offices with the best views for themselves, are located in the center of the floor plan, while regular employees sit near the full-height glass windows, enjoying a 180° panorama of the Marina Bay. Cubicles? Gone. Desks at DBS have low partitions and are arranged in a honeycomb pattern to encourage greater collaboration and interaction. Staff are also encouraged to draw on the windows and glass walls of some of the rooms, which help to make the office less formal but a more fun place to work.

Instead of tucking workplace kitchens away and out of sight, DBS dedicates prime real estate on all 18 floors to what they call “social hubs” with snacks and vending machines. There’s even DBS Brew, the bank’s own special blend of coffee.

The self-service zone outside the main branch, in the building’s 24-hour lobby.

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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  1. Interesting development, and clearly a lot of design effort has gone into this new branch look.
    I like the idea of different ‘speeds’ at a bank – from self-service to quick service to a fuller consultation.
    I’m less impressed by all the trumpeting about the use of iPads. As far as I can tell from the detail provided here, it’s simply using them as an electronic form – big deal! A customer-centric bank would look to minimise the amount of data needed to be typed altogether – perhaps offering voice integration (iPads are quite good at that after all).

    However, my lasting impression of this branch is how cold and clinical it looks. Compare to the flagship US branches of Umpqua Bank, where soft materials and colours are the name of the game, and imagery of community. Instead, DBS feels like a big bank, and its stark white,red and black/grey palette reflects that.
    Perhaps this links with Asian culture and will suit its customers well…we’ll see…

  2. Great job! Singapore is the motherland of innovations!

  3. David Hamilton says:

    iPads as electronic brochures and surfing the web, not particularly innovative. Now, as an in-lobby, full fledged customer sales and service device offering non-cash financial transactions and product origination, watch the smaller banks across Asia and Middle East get really innovative.

  4. David, what’s considered “innovative” is both a matter of opinion, and a matter of degree. You seem to suggest that only Major Innovations matter. Unfortunately, such innovations are rare, and not always successful. Most (as in 99%) of all innovations are small, iterative, more modest.

    iPads in the DBS flagship location are for more than brochures and web surfing. They have been integrated into the branch’s core operations, including the digital queuing system and electronic forms. And there is more “innovation” in the DBS experience than just iPads. It’s not like DBS is saying, “We think this branch innovative because we sprinkled some iPads around.” For instance, the manner in which DBS is breaking down customer interactions into four zones (self, quick, teller, consult) based on complexity of need can be considered innovative.

    Please keep The Financial Brand updated about how your company Sungard deploys iPads in Asian and Middle Eastern bank branches.

  5. Interesting to see how banks are evolving their physical presence from the traditional small window service to now everything almost digital.

    Wondering in the next 10 or 20 years later, how these can be totally digital and mobile.

    Example, instead of meeting up with my relationship manager, can I call him/her over Facetime (or equivalent)? Instead of signature, can I use thumbprint scan? Instead of form filling, can I scan/swipe my intelligent chip-based ID?

    Many more possibilities but the limitation is always the possible process gaps, frauds, security, etc or even local regulation not permitting it.

  6. Tim (nice but dim) says:

    Hi all, I helped develop the concept design into actuality so perhaps can offer some insight:

    Design was by a London based consultancy, with worldwide experience. You have to see this branch in context and it is eons ahead of the existing Asian banking experience. This required considerable faith by the client in the design.

    iPads in the branch…Just remember this is a first off so was uncharted waters. They do have the potential to upgrade new apps and develop exponentially

    Cold modern look (white, red, black & silver) was specified for the RETAIL banking experience. What this article did not see are the levels above; featuring solid rosewood, silk upholstery, platinum metals, alabaster and marble.

  7. Hi Tim,

    The Financial Brand regularly covers work by the design consultancy, Allen International. DBS has also been covered a number of times for its innovative approach to marketing.

    Allen didn’t send photos of anything but the retail space.

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