Building Engines of Innovation

Neal Cross, Managing Director & Chief Innovation Officer, DBS Bank provided the Opening Keynote Presentation, “Building Engines of Innovation” at the CIO Leaders Summit Australia. During this presentation, Neal spoke on Digital Disruption and the key factors for true innovation within the workplace, stressing that, “If you don’t, someone else will.” Neal spoke on today’s most successful and agile organisations  and the pertinence of creating a successful culture of innovation.

Neal spoke on his role at DBS and how DBS is fundamentally evolving the culture of the organization to deliver large-scale repeatable innovation inside and outside of the bank. He shared the DBS Bank approach to cultural transformation, including the programs and policies that the bank has set in place in order to encourage its employees to to take risks, experiment and, “have fun” in order to bring its culture to life. He finished this Presentation by summarising the key points for innovation within the organisation, highlighting:

•TOP DOWN: Needs board and executive sponsorship and demonstrable focus
•BOTTOM UP: Has to be inclusive for ALL staff
•WIDE: Engage and excite a broad spectrum of staff through low touch programs
•DEEP: Focus on specific deliverables
•GOALING: Give enough freedom to the innovation group


DBS has been innovating the way it does banking, with the understanding that the way in which customers live, work and bank is changing dramatically. The drive to be at the forefront of this change was set in motion in 2010 by CEO Piyush Gupta, and the bank’s innovation efforts today are anchored around three big ideas:

• An increased focus on digitisation to further enhance efficiency
• Making the customer experience more interactive and intuitive
• Analytics and the use of Big Data, both structured and unstructured

More recently, DBS has rolled out a number of trailblazing initiatives. Last year, the bank reached a major milestone in its innovation journey, moving into the R&D and ideation space via a partnership with A*STAR’s Institute of Infocomm Research in Singapore. The two have set up a joint lab driving innovation through research and experimentation. DBS has also announced an agreement with IBM to tap into Watson’s capabilities to harness Big Data so as to provide more precise, customised and quality actionable insights that meet its customers’ needs.

With financial institutions seeing increasing threat and competition from non-traditional players, and digitisation making it possible for new players to encroach on banks’ traditional field of business, DBS recently announced that it will be investing SGD 200 million over the next three years to up the ante in digital banking. Apart from integrating banking into customers’ digital lifestyles, the initiative also aims to leverage technologies to reach large retail markets with a growing digitally savvy group of consumers.


Neal Cross is Managing Director and Chief Innovation Officer of DBS Bank and a strong advocate for innovation thinking and culture.

Neal is driving the bank’s innovation agenda regionally, as DBS moves to shape the future of banking, to enhance customer experience and better engage customers in the digital landscape. Neal has more than 20 years’ experience in technology, innovation and financial services.

Working with internal stakeholders and external collaborators, he charts the innovation roadmap for DBS to enhance customer experience and better engage the bank’s customers in the digital landscape.

Previous to DBS, Neal was at MasterCard, where he was responsible for driving innovation as Vice President of MasterCard Labs in the company’s Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions. Neal started working in the Asia time zone at Microsoft in Australia and later in Singapore as the financial services industry director.