Watching an old friend return – locking up a guy and lying about poisoning him – does wonders for putting me into a good mood.

My temperament aside, DBS deserves a shout-out and a slap on the back. It’s quite unfair that when SMRT and PUB foul up we’re all over them like white on rice, but when DBS does a job as good as this no one can be bothered to offer a compliment.

I appreciate what they’ve done for the card-skimming scam so far. It was quickly reported on the mainstream news (score one, but then nobody keeps count for them), DBS moved quickly to assure customers that their losses will be covered and investigations are underway. Experts were immediately put on air not to put a spin on why it’s not a big deal, but rather explain concisely how the scam probably occurred and is being carried out. It is the information dissemination muscle of the old-school media in a very quiet demonstration that hasn’t been seen in all of 2011.

No hand-wringing. No delays. No PR disasters. No idiot of a GM trying to say that “customers should be more careful” and exposing himself to mudslinging. No opaque processes; anyone who lost any money is clear on how his or her account was compromised, and how he or she can get the money back from the bank.

So despite the potential damage that could have been caused by this scam, probably greater than any MRT breakdown, the matter has been contained within a couple of days. It’s by no means over and won’t be until the perpetrators are arrested and charged, but at least this isn’t going to be a crisis for anyone. Not you, not me, not any DBS customer, not DBS itself. Thta’s the great job marvellously done.

What can SMRT and PUB learn from this? Not that many, as it turns out. DBS just got a few things right, and those few things have massively disproportionate impacts.

First. Concentrate on solving the problem, not putting a spin on it. We’re east of the Suez and west of Hawaii, in a land where the residents are far more concerned regarding what you’re doing rather than what you’re saying, unless what you’re telling us in a concise fashion what you’re doing. That’s the focus of PR; it’s disseminating outgoing information, not deflecting incoming ones, that should take priority. People are simply less likely to panic and lash out when they feel assured that they are being kept in the loop.

Second. Long-term solutions are the holy grail, but always be prepared to take stopgap measures to contain damage in the short-term even if they will be expensive ones. I highly doubt DBS could have figured how much money had been scammed in those few hours between the first reports and their announced blanket guarantee. They went ahead anyway and it’s paid off handsomely. Long-term solutions certainly go a long way in preventing future mishaps but they do nothing to roll back damage inflicted in the meantime.

Third. This is speculative, but DBS possibly benefited from being a bank in the first place. The financial tension since 2008 has placed retaining the trust of savers and investors near the top of the agenda for many banks, and banking has often emphasized precisely that trust anyway (even if it be merely a romanticized perspective). In the case of DBS, that effectively helped it recognize and keep in view its position of public trust, as well as working to keep it. SMRT and PUB may lack such a culture.

For SMRT and PUB’s debacles they’ve been roundly criticised, and I’ve seen more than a handful of barbed comments referring to their well-salaried executives, as though high pay somehow reduces the incentive to do a good job. I should like to point out that however little my opinion of such poor excuses for thinking, it nonetheless cuts both ways regardless of the silliness of the paradigm; a job well done by well-salaried DBS executives is as much evidence for high pay works, as a muck-up by SMRT and PUB executives ‘proves’ the opposite.

In any case, I believe we should all show some appreciation to DBS. After all, simply criticizing all the time without offering credit when it is due makes for a terrible lack of good examples and standards to aspire to. As a sideswipe, I should like to point out our cyberspace already has too many hypocrites who enjoy taking potshots, always attacking and never healing, whilst at the same time banging away on the education system is not conducive to multi-faceted, creative and positive learning.

Now because talking about our netizens always puts me into a foul mood, I shall go play FM 2012 now. It is excellently amusing to watch the AI offload David Silva at bargain price because there’s no rich sheikh in the game to inject 50 million pounds every six months. Almost as funny as marking Rooney with five centrebacks and watching him get stretchered off after ten minutes.


What doesn’t kill you.

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Posted on January 8, 2012, in Singapore and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Not comparing like with like. First, DBS exposure – 200 or 500k – was relatively tiny. It could afford the overkill and very easy to resolve. No brainer. Compare that to the foot-and-arse-dragging on its mis-selling of financial products. Secondly, the bank’s initial response was its ATM machines were NOT compromised, i.e. there was no skimming. So was there or wasn’t there? If not, then it must have been an inside job which makes the bank all the more liable to full compensation (plus regulatory censure or penalties). It’s not PR per se but plain economics.

  2. Nothing to shout about. The money stolen is not from customer. Legally, it is DBS’s money that was stolen – so of course they have to compensate fully. (Note, any customers’ money deposited with DBS becomes DBS’s money.)

    • i’d be a lot more impressed if a) you showed some inkling of understanding my point; b) that fact didn’t happen to be as common knowledge as the blue sky by now; c) you didn’t try to dismiss me whilst assuming i’m a caveman who doesn’t read the news.

  1. Pingback: When SPH & DBS team up well, S’pore Inc can be Awesome « Thoughts of a Cynical Investor

  2. Pingback: Daily SG: 10 Jan 2012 « The Singapore Daily

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