Making Transformation Happen at DBS, Charles Schwab

By Kaitlin Milliken |  December 28, 2020

Due to gathering restrictions and lockdowns, many in-person financial transactions have turned to the digital realm. Instead of visiting the in-person branch of a bank, customers can manage their accounts from anywhere online.

“We had projected increased adoption of digital over time, increasingly mobile. And we’ve basically seen that double this year,” said Paul Cobban, Chief Transformation Officer of DBS Bank, the largest bank in South East Asia.

Cobban has led transformation at the company for 11 years. Before that, he spent five years as the company’s Chief Data Officer.

Cobban discussed his experience on the mainstage of InnoLead’s Impact event. Zack Gipson, Senior Vice President of Digital Investor Solutions at Charles Schwab, also shared insights.


  • The future of banking is in partnerships. During the pandemic, “everybody’s entire digital life has changed,” Cobban said. “It’s entertainment, shopping, even dining with delivery. It’s just changed forever. … The banking of the future is going to be about partnering with those other industries.” According to Cobban, the banking element can be an invisible counterpart to more obvious digital experience in other industries, making the customer experience easy and seamless.
  • Efficient digital experiences allow Charles Schwab to serve more people. Prior to the pandemic, some Charles Schwab advisors would visit clients in their homes. However, online connection has increased the number of people one financial advisor can serve. “[Before,] you’re looking at three to four meetings, depending upon the city area,” Gipson said. “But now…our advisors are able to see eight to 10 clients a day.”
  • Purpose, passion, and people make transformation happen. According to Gipson, successful transformation has a clear focus, often focused on serving clients better. That purpose “lights a fire” that ignites people’s passion and “brings everyone into innovation.”
  • Create new rituals to spark employee creativity at home. Cobban’s team at DBS created the “speedy meeting,” where Microsoft Teams meetings are defaulted to 15 minutes to prevent fatigue and encourage spontaneous encounters. He also suggested repurposing online tools teams already have on their devices. “Being a bank, some of the sexier tools…are limited for security reasons,” he explains. “So, we had to have a fairly finite set of tools, but we’d hack them to make Post-It notes on PowerPoint and things like that.”