DBS: What the new chairman should be looking at III

In Banks, Corporate governance on 31/03/2010 at 5:21 am

Cross -selling is the holy grail of banks with diverse business or product limes, and big branch networks.

So DBS with an extensive  network of 81 branches and more than 900 ATMs in Singapore, including those belonging to POSB, want to do more cross-selling. The relatively newish CEO has spoken of the need to improve cross-selling and said DBS should offer a wider suite of products, including appropriate investment products, and sell more mortgages and unsecured loans.

DBS ‘s customers can only hope management have learnt the lessons of HN5 Notes. DBS issued and arranged HN5 Notes, selling in 2007  a total of $103.7 million worth of HN5 to 1,083 “Treasures” and “Emerging Affluence” retail clients. (This refers to clients with more than $200,000 (for “Treasures”) and $80,000 (for “Emerging Affluence”) assets respectively under management by DBS although the “Emerging Affluence” definition also takes into consideration the client’s income and occupation.)

The collapse of Lehman Brothers made the notes worthless. DBS offered only  $7.6 million in compensation to 22.8% out of the 1000 odd investors. The compensation amounted to 7.3% of the amount that was invested.These sums were peanuty compared to the amounts that MayBank and Hong Leong Finance paid to minibonders.  Some investors are suing.

And in HK, DBS said in a statement in October last year that 4,700 investors would their entire investment of $241-million in the Constellation 253 notes. They have not been compensated en-mass like the Hongkie minibonders who got 60% of the principal back, with the possibility of more. Again some are suing.

Shareholders can only hope that next time DBS successful cross sells, affluent customers don’t get made poor .  True the notes made money for DBS, but at what cost to its reputation?

Up to you, chairman to make sure that when DBS cross-sells, customers tbenefit too. Or at least don’t get demoted from “Treasures” or “Emerging Affluence” to paupers or “the newly poor”.

I hope he remembers that the “holy grail”, though often sighted (tat’s the claim) has never been found. And that its search led to the demise of Camelot as Arthur’s knights focused on the search of the grail, rather than the defence of the realm. Must be a lesson somewhere in all of this for DBS, if not Citi.

Oh and I hope that a Singaporean chairman of an Asian bank realises the incongruity of following a European myth, which the “holy grail” is rather than an Asian truth. The holy grail is the cup that supposedly Jesus drank from at the “last supper”, before his execution on Good Friday.

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