DBS Bank's Group CIO explains why it's investing big in cloud

Singapore-based DBS Bank has great faith in the cloud.

Its mobile payment solution, PayLah, is cloud-hosted. Its mobile-only Digibank app, first launched in India, is also in the cloud.

“We were previously constrained by our ability to scale, but the cloud has presented us with an opportunity to experiment like we couldn’t do in the past,” explains David Gledhill, CIO at DBS Bank Group.

Digibank, which features three fintech products – the chatbot called Kasisto; a personalised spending recommendation product, Moneythor; and an in-app security locker, V-Key – has also been launched in Indonesia.

But even from within, some of DBS’s internal operations are also run on the cloud. The bank uses Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) compute-as-a-service offering, Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity suite, and Akamai’s cloud-based web application accelerator and DDoS protection.

“It’s inevitable when people use the cloud as part of their workflows,” Gledhill explains. “AWS and other cloud providers are just going to get better at implementing and managing security overtime due to the scale at which they operate. They can get things done much more consistently than we can ever hope to do within our own company.”

It’s true that the core banking platforms can’t be all be moved to the cloud because of architecture issues, but Gledhill says the priority is “to work on making those applications cloud ready.”

The bank has identified applications that can be prioritised for cloud migration, and Gledhill says they fall on two categories: mobile applications and applications that deal with data and analytics.

“We’re seeing a greater demand for big data/analytics versus any urgency to get mobile apps onto the cloud,” he says, adding that the challenge for DBS Bank is how to apply traditional layers of controls for cloud-run applications.

There is also the issue of whether to stick with a single provider or go the multiple provider route.

“One layer of going onto the cloud involves utilizing just cloud servers and storage from a provider like AWS, but doing that alone doesn’t get you far until you’ve embraced other associated applications such as Lambda, Redshift, and Aurora. Right now, the bigger question would probably concern which software products look the most attractive to us, and how deeply we’ll wish to invest in a single provider,” he said.

Even with various issues and challenges, the DBS bank executive says that the cloud is the way to go for them.

“We’ll never catch up if we stick to building our own data centres, we’ll always be some two years behind,” states Gledhill.

Part of the reason is for fast implementation of innovations. “We need to run like a 22,000 person startup. You can’t move very far as a bank today if you can’t achieve that,” he concluded.