DBS MD: “I’m hiring 200 techies in 12 months”

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DBS is hiring 200 new technologists over the next 12 months and it prefers candidates who’ve never worked in banking before.

The bank is recruiting across all levels of seniority in Singapore and India, its two main markets for technology jobs, says Soh Siew Choo, managing director and head of core systems technology at DBS.

Most of the new hires will be developers and architects. These functions have been the focus of DBS’s tech hiring since 2015, when it began insourcing many of the development jobs that had previously been performed by third-party IT vendors.

“We’re looking for people who can code, rather than generalist like business analysts or project managers,” says Soh. “And we’re not specifically looking for technologists with banking experience, as we already have plenty of them in the firm.”

Experience of working in an “agile environment” is now more critical to getting a technology job at DBS.

“Our preference is to hire technologists from outside the banking industry, such as those from start-ups or from the gaming industry, which is similar to banking because both sectors are highly regulated and dependent on technology,” says Soh.

DBS currently has a “huge pipeline of digital transformation projects”, she adds.

“The driver of this hiring is our effort to make everything digital – when dealing with clients and internally – by leveraging cloud-native architecture. We’re pursuing straight-through automation and getting rid of all our manual processes,” says Soh.

DBS also needs tech staff because it’s creating a new platform to make “better use of big data to develop new products and insights”.

“We use big data not just to serve clients better, but to improve internal processes such as assessing employee attrition risks and conducting continuous audit,” says Soh.

The new hiring plans follow a hackathon recruitment initiative, Hack2hire, which Soh launched earlier this year to help DBS tackle the “challenges” of finding good developers locally. “Singapore has traditionally been a centre for tech support, not development, for the banking industry,” she explains.

“While we’d hired from multiple locations and industries in the past, not all of them were a good fit. I had to find new ways to find agile, start-up-style technologists,” says Soh.

Her initial solution was to ask all candidates to pair program with DBS developers as part of the recruitment process, but that became “hugely time consuming when hiring hundreds”.

“So I wanted to find a way of doing pair programming on a large scale. DBS had used hackathons for other purposes, so why not recruitment?” says Soh.

About 300 people in Singapore and India took part in the two-day Hack2hire event, selected from some 12,500 applicants who did an online programming test.

DBS interviewed 150 people after the event and offered jobs to around 70 of them, of whom about 90% accepted, says Soh.

“Eight have already started and the rest will join us in the next two months. Most are experienced developers and data scientists,” she adds.

Image credit: ThomasVogel, Getty


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