Analysis of Knowledge Management within DBS Group Holdings Asia


DBS Group Holdings (DBS) is one of the largest organizations in financial sector in Asia which is headquartered in Singapore. It is among the Asia-Pacific banks that acquire highest credit ratings and also the largest bank in South East Asia.

DBS's original name is Development Bank of Singapore, set up in 1968. Nowadays, DBS becomes a successful financial institution, providing a wide range of innovative products in banking and financial sector. In Singapore, the bank occupies market-dominant positions in consumer banking, treasury and markets, asset management, securities brokerage, equity and debt fund-raising. Going internationally, the bank has a regional network with more than 200 branches and over 1,000 ATMs across 50 cities.

Singapore and Hongkong is DBS's primary market where most of their operations thereby, accounts in 2008 approximately 85% of net profit. In Singapore, DBS and POSB is the two brand names that under operation of the bank, currently acquire a mass customer base of over 3.2 million Singaporeans

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As one of the leading banks in Asia, DBS gains a massive global workforce of 14,000 staffs, representing over 30 nationalities. The bank announced S$6031 million of operating income in 2008. DBS philosophy is to empowering, educating and engaging our staff so as to build a high performance organization renowned for its good customer service and innovative business solutions.

DBS promotes Knowledge Management within its organization

Because of a massive amplitude and complexity in operation as an international largest organization, and striving for an adequate-content report, it is ineffective to investigate whole aspects of DBS in the effort of implementing Knowledge Management. Instead, this report will specify in exploring the DBS's concept and its basic approaches to fundamentals of Knowledge Management. Key content will focus on identifying Knowledge Management process, building Knowledge Management System, Mechanism and Technology, ultimately Infrastructure. Challenges and benefits gained from implementation process are also mentioned in the report as well as recommendation and analysis.

Throughout years of operation, DBS now understands the depth and significance of Knowledge Management. In its development journey, DBS learnt that this conception must be essentially seen as a vitally critical point, an innovative strategy towards a sustainability business model rather than a diverse and complex risk. That right and visional direction are now put primarily on one of the long-term goals of the organization. Moreover, DBS business is in banking and finance industry where multiplicity of information and knowledge is created and updated every hour, the need of Knowledge Management becomes critically essential than ever.

To start with, DBS sees official meetings as an approaching mechanism for knowledge discovery. As the nature of the business, the need for valuable information which then converted to knowledge is critical for the bank. This knowledge is defined and explored by neither the interaction between people in the organization nor just simply synthesized from previous data. For instance, there is always a meeting in Sales Department which also has a presence of Branch Manager every Monday morning to revise previous works and orient sales activities for the week. More significantly, Board of Directors and Management committee also arrange official meetings 4 times every quarter to undertake a careful overview of decision making in various levels and aspects of the organization.

Telephone conversation is also applied in the process of knowledge discovery. However it is stated that not preferable as DBS values face to face conversation where information can be transferred and conveyed in a full meaning of ways.

To enhance Knowledge discovery, DBS also invested in technology. One exemplary approach is the development of DBS database. This is an organized collection of data for people within the organization - However, accessibility in sensitive information may not be exposed to every employee. A very useful and beneficial application of DBS's database is its customer databases. In order to promote loans, risk management, and further observation, DBS's customer database is constructed to record contact, credit, and personal information such as salary, current financial situation. This database is well designed to specifically and easily create, store, search and retrieve contents which has a great impact in knowledge discovery process.

DBS is also aware of the Knowledge Capture and Share process. Practically, the organization promote on the job training under DBS Management Associate Programme. This is an experience-based development offered to new employees. Along the route, they will acquire the most possibility and chances to decide their career path when experimental learning is gained across different type of roles. By doing this, DBS ensures that organizational knowledge is able to be conveyed and captured. (DBS Management Associate Programme, 2010)

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Furthermore, to utilize the strength of technology in the process of knowledge capture and sharing, DBS invested warily in computer-based communication. Each employee in the organization practically has their own computer which is well connected to the rest of the company. Instant message, email, chat room is promoted in a rigorous manner within the organization to enhance the creation of social network and information exchange. Significantly, the organization also has its own server where only people within the company can access. This server is well managed and developed for human interaction and database warehouse.

In DBS, direction of knowledge is also well conveyed. Each employee knows warily the structure of the organization, specifically in their department. By that meaning, the relationship and relative ranks of parts and positions are well determined. Thus, employee would be guided by following the instruction or direction from the top wherever task uncertainty is encountered. Moreover, to promote routine process, DBS sets up organizational policies and work standards for safety, health in workplace.

A more particular enhancement in Knowledge Application in regard of routine process is the implementation of Enterprise-wide Core Credit Risk Policy. This establishes the principles and policies followed by the entire organization to conduct banking and financial activities and operation under specified credit risk management. (Enterprise Risk Management at DBS Group, 2010)

Significantly, Knowledge Infrastructure is insightfully aware and constructed by DBS from the early stage. Building up adequate and efficient database within the organization, keeping track with customer information and applying thoroughly technology into workplace are remarkable efforts and practices of DBS to utilize the strength of knowledge.

Strong organizational culture is achieved in DBS where every employee is well perceived of the organization values. Orientation is made wherever a new employee joins the group to ensure they get awareness of DBS's pathway as "a world class regional bank, renowned for quality, added value, and innovative service at affordable cost to customers" (DBS Bank annual report) and their ways of doing things. Following the orientation, specific goals and standards of behavior are also clearly stated to lead and guide organizational members to pursue appropriate actions. More remarkably, although promoting a well-built internal culture, DBS acquires good awareness of a phenomenon, Groupthink which is easily implied from strong culture. They understand this incident can result in a reduction of innovative capacity within the organization. In regard of this issue, DBS introduces guidelines, organizational campaign and building feedback centre in order to encourage its employees to strive for creativity and challenges.

More enhancements in organization are titled as policy desk and Innovation Council. DBS introduces policy desk where policies are drafted in areas like decision-making and organization structure to improve knowledge direction and provide reliable and appropriate source for applying knowledge. Innovation Council is a very creative approach of DBS, a governance structure aiming to maximize the value of innovation efforts that concurrently occur in various part of the organization. This council acts like a Communities of Practices where member would meet on a scheduled basis. Most of them are senior managers who represent from different department and responsible to remove internal inhibitions against innovation, and the development of appropriate culture.

Gupta, the DBS's new CEO stated "We are now in the process of developing talent programme at each level. You have a rigorous focus, you find the right people, you give them development opportunities, and you give them training opportunities".(DBS to effect culture of change across its business, 2010). Mentioned in the article, the CEO is striving to change the business's culture by setting different pathway of business towards success and sustainability.

In additional, DBS members are well equipped of the awareness of organizational structure where they know whom in charge of guidance and direction in their area and who they consequently interact with. Practically, the highest management body of DBS is the Group Management Committee including CEO, CFO, CRO and other significant executives. Moreover, in every National branch such as India, Taiwan, Indonesia, there is a top branch manager as well. They are in charge of directing DBS's strategy, and maintaining DBS's core values and principles. (Our Management, 2010)

Benefits that DBS gained from Knowledge Management

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Applying Knowledge Management into organization has shown evidently numerous benefits to DBS. Positively, employee satisfaction has been improved as many stated that they experience a friendly working environment where communication is effective and feedback is valued. Moreover, as innovation takes a leading role in DBS, implementation of Knowledge Management has brought to DBS a great opportunity to enhance its innovation capacity. Knowledge is identified, created and distributed within the organization in a smooth flow, thus people can easily utilize this powerful strength. As a result, continuous development of innovative products is always acquired in DBS, particularly in financial area. These improved products yield a significant added value to the organization and consequently become their competitive advantage.

Understanding that there is no specific one solution of Knowledge Management for every organization, approaches to a successful implementation of Knowledge Management should follow rigorously distinct aspects of organization.

Analysis and recommendation

Because of its nature in financial sector, DBS possesses its characteristic in high task interdependence and low task uncertainty. By observing and interviewing members of DBS, evidently there is a strong connection between each department where tasks are assigned. Particularly in banking activities such as personal credit, every step made right from the beginning like marketing, teller would influence largely and deeply the effectiveness of later tasks of other department - audit, credit, risk management. Because of that precious reason, everyone in the organization is well trained to recognize and understand their responsibility and job in their position. Gaining insight about this incident yields an approach that DBS should practice Knowledge Exchange, Combination, and Routines in order to achieve high efficiency in work.

DBS is a large organization as it operates internationally in more than 30 nations ,hires more than 14,000 employees. Theoretically, it's suggested that Knowledge Exchange, Combination, Routines, Externalization and Internalization is most suitable solutions. Moreover, DBS promotes a differentiation strategy which indicated from its continuous efforts to innovative products. This strategy is best associated with Knowledge Combination, Externalization, Internalization and Exchange. Significantly, because of high environment uncertainty as the business is much dependent on the economic situation, particularly from national monetary policies, specific knowledge process should be assigned to coordinate well such as combination, direction, and routine.

Critically, it can be seen in the analysis above that Combination process should be the most prioritized in the implementation of Knowledge Management, following by Routine.

Practically, Combination process can be promoted by optimizing the level of data collection, simultaneously encouraging creativity in data usage. One exemplary approach is gathering all financial reports in every branch and designs a consolidated financial report. Moreover, in order to utilize the effect of Combination process, stream of date should be constructed to be available and accessible, large database capacity must be vitally built to store, update information from the past. More realistically, there are numerous customer who looking for an all-solutions product or package. This strategic vision can be achieved by applying Knowledge Combination to synthesis this innovative product from earlier database and records.

A very efficient application that has been used by another enterprise named Suffle Master is the implementation of a database portal where a pool of data in the organization will be synchronized from various source and technology software into one consolidated database. This would help the organization greatly in updated sales prediction as well as operation management.