The DBS board and management has apologised for a series of digital disruptions this year. DBS, hitherto acknowledged for is digital transformation strategy and technology innovation suffered adverse publicity relating to five separate incidents this year.
For example, on 29 March, some customers faced difficulty accessing the bank’s digital banking services. A further outage occurred on 5 May. On 26 September, an outage impacted some FAST/PayNow transactions. And then on 14 October, a data centre incident impacted service with a 20 October outage resulting in some customers having intermittent access to DBS PayLah!.
DBS said that the bank is addressing the issues at hand with utmost priority.
Meantime, on 1 November, The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) imposed a six-month pause on DBS non-essential IT changes. This is to ensure that the bank keeps sharp focus on restoring the resilience of its digital banking services. DBS will not be allowed to acquire new business ventures during this period or reduce the size of its branch and ATM networks in Singapore.
DBS sets out comprehensive remedial roadmap
DBS has rolled out a comprehensive roadmap to improve technology resiliency. The strategy encompasses both immediate and longer-term measures to strengthen technology governance, people/leadership, systems and processes.
The bank has assured customers that when the roadmap is completed, they will see improved service reliability. Should disruptions occur, the remediation measures being implemented will shorten the time taken for recovery.
DBS is also working to ensure that, where possible, customers will have alternative means to fulfil their banking needs in case a service or channel is temporarily unavailable.
The bank will maintain its network of physical touchpoints. This includes branches, ATMs and VTMs (Video Teller Machines) as well as POSB Cash-Points at merchant outlets including Giant, Cold Storage, 7-Eleven and SingPost. If need be, branches will be opened on Sundays and public holidays as an alternative service channel.
DBS Chairman Peter Seah said: “The Board apologises for the digital banking disruptions. When customers bank with us, they expect to be able to access our banking services conveniently, and at any time of the day. With the incidents of the past year, we have failed to live up to these expectations. We have also fallen short of our own standards. As an acknowledgement that the bank could have done better, senior management will be held accountable, and this will be reflected in their compensation.
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“Over the past few months, the bank has been making every effort possible to strengthen our resiliency and business continuity, and to be able to recover more quickly when incidents happen. This is a work in progress, and we seek customers’ patience as we work through our remedial actions.”
Accenture findings and recommendations
After the 29 March incident, the Board convened a Special Board Committee to oversee a full review of the disruption.
The committee engaged two independent experts to support them.
In April 2023, MAS directed DBS to engage an independent third-party to conduct a comprehensive review of the effectiveness and adequacy of the people, processes, and technology supporting its digital banking services.
DBS appointed Accenture, to carry out a root cause investigation of the March incident. This was subsequently extended to the 5 May incident), and to conduct a comprehensive review of the bank’s digital banking services. This includes its control processes, digital banking services and technology stack.
The findings of the Accenture review – completed in August – were also corroborated against recent disruptions.
The bank believes that key gaps and deficiencies have been identified. According to Accenture’s review, they fall into four main areas. These are technology risk governance and oversight, incident management, system resilience and change management.
Committed to doing better
To address these areas of weakness, the bank has taken onboard Accenture’s recommendations. In some cases, DBS will be taking steps in addition to the recommendations to further improve technology resiliency.
In addition, DBS is in the process of strengthening system resilience and tightening processes around change management. As these improvements are more structural in nature, they will take time to fully implement, and are expected to be completed in 12-24 months.
In addition to complying with the regulatory requirements at a system level, DBS will also introduce new service availability targets at a service level. DBS is setting new service targets for three key digital banking services; namely, balance enquiry, overseas payments and domestic payments.