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DBS launches India’s first mobile-only bank

SINGAPORE – DBS Bank unveiled India’s first mobile-only bank on Tuesday (April 26) that will allow account holders to talk to an artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant to transact in real time as well as get queries answered.

DBS launches India’s first mobile-only bank

DBS CEO Piyush Gupta at the launch of digibank, India’s first mobile-only bank. Photo: DBS

SINGAPORE – DBS Bank unveiled India’s first mobile-only bank on Tuesday (April 26) that will allow account holders to talk to an artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant to transact in real time as well as get queries answered.

The paperless, signatureless and branchless banking business model will be replicated in DBS’ other regional markets, including China and Indonesia, to cash in on the burgeoning middle class and favorable demographics there, the Singaporean lender said.

India was chosen as the launch market for digibank, said DBS CEO Piyush Gupta, largely because of its favourable macroeconomics environment, a fast-growing middle class and a rapidly transforming infrastructure that supports this system of banking. Digibank, however, has limited scope in Singapore given the lender’s legacy operations here, Mr Gupta explained.

“India’s banking system is at the cusp of massive change. Over the next four years India will have 600 million smartphone users, up from 200 million at present. We are targeting the white collar, digitally savvy middle class there and are aiming at providing unique customer experience … Digibank’s efficiencies and lower costs enable us to pass on significant benefits to customers in the form of greater customer value,” Mr Gupta said.

The bank is targeting 5 million bank accounts in India with digibank and its wallet services.

The account-opening will be done through a network of outlets run by DBS’s partners, including over 500 cafes across India for a start. Customer authentication is done purely using the Aadhaar card, a biometrics-enabled ID which has been issued to more than 1 billion Indians – the world’s largest biometric identification programme, the bank said. Customer service will be backed by artificial-intelligence technology.

Mr Surojit Shome, DBS India CEO said: “Over the years, the bank has grown its corporate banking and SME franchise meaningfully (in India). Going forward, we would like to extend our reach in the consumer segment as well.”

With a billion Aadhaar cards and over 200 million smartphone users in India, Mr Shome said, the opportunity for growth with digibank is huge.

Account holders will earn 7 per cent interest on their deposits with free unlimited cash withdrawals from across over 200,000 ATMs nationwide and will not be required to maintain a minimum stipulated cash balance with the bank. A debit card, to be issued to account holders, can be used across all Visa-enabled online and point-of-sale transactions, as well as overseas.

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, it was reported that DBS is targeting 5 billion bank accounts in India with digibank and its wallet services. The correct figure is 5 million and not 5 billion. We apologise for the error.

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