DBS unveils mobile-only bank for Indonesia


Singapore’s DBS Bank has tapped into Indonesia’s booming smartphone market, launching a new “paperless and signatureless” mobile banking service in the archipelago state.

Known as digibank, the DBS subsidiary utilises mobile-friendly technologies, including biometrics and AI, to enhance service delivery and better assist customers through their smart devices.

With the assistance of a DBS agent, Indonesian citizens in the Greater Jakarta area will be able to open a digibank account without requiring paperwork, utilising biometric technology – leveraged through Indonesia’s mandatory e-KTP ID scheme – to authorise account access.

Customer service has also been fully digitised within the digibank platform, delivered through an AI-powered virtual assistant. Customers can request information on their bank account, such as statements or account balances, without the intervention of human service personnel.

digibank developers have also sought to streamline and simplify security within the platform, adopting ‘soft’ (software) token authentication – a two-factor security measure which authorises transactions through the bank’s dedicated smartphone app, effectively bypassing traditional SMS-based tokens. While soft tokens are considered more secure than one-time passwords (OTPs), traditional hardware (or ‘hard’) tokens, typically delivered through SMS, remain the gold standard for two-factor authentication. 

Piyush Gupta, DBS chief executive, said the idea of launching “an entire bank on a mobile phone” would have been inconceivable only a few years ago.

“With digibank, we’ve built a bank that pulls together the power of biometrics, natural language, artificial intelligence and in-built security in one offering. We believe this mobile-led offering represents the future of banking, and are excited to introduce this in Indonesia, a core market for us in Asia.”

While a significant proportion of the Indonesian population remains unbanked, mobile penetration rates continue to soar, presenting a clear opportunity for mobile-ready financial services providers.

Upwards of 91 per cent of Indonesian citizens own a mobile phone, with nearly half the population equipped with a smartphone. As a result, the number of Indonesians patronising e-banking services has increased significantly over the last four years, from 13.6 million customers in 2012 to 54 million customers in 2016, according to Indonesia’s Financial Authority Services (OJK).

The launch of digibank Indonesia follows the successful unveiling of the service in India last year. Since its release, more than 1.5 million new customers have joined the subcontinent’s dedicated mobile banking service.