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DBS chairman, CEO apologise for service disruption; special committee set up to investigate outage

Only about 40 per cent to 50 per cent of DBS customers could access digital services for much of Wednesday, chief executive Piyush Gupta said the bank's annual general meeting.

DBS chairman, CEO apologise for service disruption; special committee set up to investigate outage
A logo of DBS is pictured outside an office in Singapore. (File photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: DBS has set up a special board committee to investigate the recent disruption to its digital services.

DBS chairman Peter Seah revealed this at an annual general meeting on Friday (Mar 31), adding that the bank will engage external experts to look into the matter.

The day-long outage on Wednesday left some customers of Singapore's biggest bank unable to log in to online banking platforms such as its PayLah! mobile wallet, from as early as 8.30am. Digital services resumed at 5.30pm, said DBS.

It was DBS' second outage in 16 months. The previous incident in November 2021 lasted two days and was deemed a "serious disruption" by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

The authority issued a strongly-worded statement following the outage on Wednesday, calling the latest disruption "unacceptable" and that the bank had "fallen short" of MAS' expectations to maintain "high system availability and ensure its IT systems are recovered expeditiously".


In his remarks on Friday, Mr Seah apologised for the "inconvenience and frustration" caused to customers during the disruption.

"It is indeed very unfortunate and disappointing that something like this happened. In particular, we acknowledge that it is unacceptable that many of our customers faced issues logging into digibank services, when something of a similar nature happened 16 months ago," he said.

"Our customers have every right to expect more of us."

CNA understands from those who attended the meeting that he bowed to shareholders as he conveyed his apologies.

The four-man investigative committee will include board members - independent director Olivier Lim, Board Audit Committee chairman Tham Sai Choy, tech expert and banker Bonghan Cho, and GovTech board member Chng Kai Fong.

They will "conduct a full and detailed investigation of the incident", said Mr Seah, adding that external experts "with broad and deep experience in overseeing large-scale IT systems and operations" will also be engaged to work with the committee.

He also said that the bank had consulted MAS, which gave its support.


DBS chief executive Piyush Gupta called the disruption "sobering".

"Ensuring uninterrupted digital banking services 24/7 has been our key priority," he said at the meeting. "Unfortunately, we fell short and I’m truly sorry. Our customers and our shareholders deserve better."

He noted that Wednesday's disruption was similar to the one that took place in November 2021, following which the bank worked with independent experts to make improvements.

This included unbundling some of the bank's systems to limit any potential impact, as well as better recovery protocols.

"Unfortunately, it was not enough," he said, adding that only about 40 per cent to 50 per cent of customers could access digital services for a "large part" of Wednesday.

"After lunch, we decided to invoke the next level of the recovery protocol, and decided to fire up our backup servers, which was the only way to restore full access to our online services."

During the process, which took almost two hours, the bank had a "complete downtime" so that it could fire up the backup servers. Following this, services started coming back and DBS was able to restore full services by about 5.30pm.

He added that a thorough management review is underway, but noted that it was still too early to figure out what exactly the problem was.

"I would like to reiterate that we are committed to doing better as such a well-known digital and technology bank," he said. "This embarrasses us so we are committed to doing better and so once again, I just wanted to start this off by offering my sincere apologies for the incident on Wednesday."

Also on Friday, Mr Gupta said the bank benefited from inflows amounting to a "few hundred millions" in the aftermath of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.

He did not specify a currency for the inflows.

He added DBS had generally been benefiting from safe-haven inflows into Singapore since last year, which had been boosted by the recent banking crisis in the West.

Singapore has been attracting wealth, especially from China, in recent years by being one of the first Asian cities to significantly ease pandemic restrictions, on top of its tax-friendly regime and being seen as politically stable.

Source: Reuters/ga


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