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DCS Card Centre: Reaping The Rewards of Digital Transformation

Celebrating 50+ years in the industry, DCS Card Centre upgraded its legacy business to embrace embedded finance, digital inclusivity and Web3 payments. 
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05 Jun 2024
DCS Card Centre Reaping The Rewards of Digital Transformation .jpg Joined by Senior Minister of State Tan Kiat How (above, fifth from left), the team from DCS Card Centre celebrates the Tech Talent Builders Award presented to CEO Karen Low (bottom, right).
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Formerly known as Diners Club Singapore, DCS Card Centre is a financial institution that has just celebrated its 50th anniversary amid a business landscape that tends to place young enterprises and startups in the spotlight. Governed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under the Banking Act, the institution issues credit cards for individuals and corporates while also providing services in the merchant acquiring space.


Having been a major player in the local payments landscape for decades, DCS Card Centre encountered teething issues in the midst of its rebranding and business transformation in 2023, arising from new challenges in novel technology and evolving customer expectations. Nevertheless, the institution managed to leverage the experience of industry veterans, transforming their business by building up relevant verticals that positions them well for the challenges ahead.


But breaking old habits is often easier said than done. To find out how mature enterprises can effectively transform, we sat down with Chief Executive Officer Karen Low to find out how she’s been leading DCS Card Centre to greater heights.


Q: Why was it important for DCS to transform its business? 

Low:The first thing we did when I took over as CEO of DCS Card Centre was an infrastructural upgrade. Because the organisation had been in operation for so long, the system we had in place was actually very old. By investing in a fourth generation, API-led platform, we were able to expand our offerings to include not just Diners Club Cards, but also card products with other global payment schemes like UnionPay, Mastercard, and soon, Visa. In other words, our business parameters expanded and gave us additional capabilities to provide payments services for a wider range of customers.


In fact, this move also empowered us to kick-start our embedded finance business pillar, where we provide card and wallet as a service solutions to non-financial institution partners, such as retailers. Basically, this is the type of integrated solution powering gift cards or store cards by retail brands, which enables you to store credit on the e-wallet, collect loyalty points and exchange for rewards. Today, our embedded finance vertical can support both e-commerce and retail companies seamlessly. 


The transformation could not have been more timely, as embedded finance is still relatively new within Singapore and the greater Southeast Asian region, and we are seeing significant interest in how embedded payments can drive customer loyalty efforts. It turned out to be a very good business opportunity as there are very few licensed entities who can provide such services. We also went one step further to provide white label services for companies that have yet to set up a mobile app. This is a blue ocean for us, and I expect our embedded finance solutions to contribute significantly to the growth of our business.


Q: How difficult was it to move on from old systems?

Low:We had to make the change, because the old system prevented us from operating effectively — especially during the Covid period where nobody could go out and all businesses shifted their services online. On top of that, everything was being driven towards automation. This meant that we had to upgrade ourselves, fast. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to keep up with customers who now want everything to be swift and seamless.


With the new system, we were able to automate up to 60% of our workflows and processes. It used to be that you would receive a card two weeks later after filling in a form with 20 to 30 fields. Now, customers can simply key in selected fields via our revamped DCS Cards mobile app and have the rest of their data fetched from MyInfo or via a Credit Bureau Check. Everything happens in real time, where a virtual card is instantly issued and made accessible via the app for immediate use. This is followed by the physical card being delivered to our customers within 3 business days.


Q: What efforts have been made to ensure that digital channels remain secure?

Low: We take cybersecurity very seriously as a financial institution and are committed to safeguarding the trust our customers place in us to manage their transactions. Because cybersecurity threats are ever-changing, we work very closely with other financial players within the local ecosystem to ensure that we stay updated on the latest digital trends.


We are active participants in industry-wide meetings that are regularly held to keep organisations in the financial sector updated on the latest fraud threats and trends. Our fraud monitoring infrastructure is also imbued with the use of AI to flag anomalies and ensure alignment to fraud rules. Furthermore, we also leverage partners such as VISA, MasterCard, and UnionPay. As global payment schemes, they are at the forefront of cybersecurity in the payments sector, and we constantly glean insights on how to upgrade our systems, stress test, and monitor transactions through the insights, among other efforts.


Q: What efforts have been made to keep older folk up to speed with digital services?

Low:Older customers are surprisingly familiar with digital services, perhaps because of Covid as well. Of course, we make every effort to ensure that our customer platforms are as user-friendly as possible, complete with step-by-step user guides to help first-time users navigate the interface.


Additionally, our mobile app includes features such as font manipulation and multilingual copy so that those who are visually impaired or not fluent in English can also access our services. If they need additional help, they can reach out via our hotline or head on down to our office where our customer service staff can provide guidance. We also continue to build on resources like guides and demos that enable customers to learn at their own pace. So far, this strategy seems to be working, as the adoption rate for our mobile app is growing steadily.


Q: Did DCS face challenges hiring talent required to build up these services?

Low: Talent hasn’t been much of a challenge because we’re operating in a highly competitive and regulated industry. Our philosophy when hiring talent is not to select the best, but the right individuals. This means selecting for personality, not just technical skillset.


We need our employees to be business-minded so they can understand how their actions impact things such as customer experience and business outcomes. This requires IT staff to think like product managers, with a well-rounded view of business requirements, end-user needs and tech input. Without this foresight, our teams will face difficulty in driving customisation that has become so commonplace today.


Q: How will DCS continue to evolve moving forward?

Low: Moving forward, we plan to stay ahead of the curve by venturing into areas that are currently not available or as prevalent in today’s market. We’re already the first financial institution in Singapore to issue a payment token, the DCS Tokens, which serve to bridge the payments experience across Web2 and Web3. We are working closely with licensed crypto exchange parties to enable customers, including corporates and merchants, to seamlessly convert their digital assets into spend limit on DCS cards that can be used for making transactions in the Web2 world.


The reverse is true as well, where our merchants can have their settlement in DCS Tokens,  which can be used to make transactions within Web3. This utility serves the emerging needs of users of digital assets today, and we’re seeing very promising uptake on this front.



Never too old to learn new tricks

DCS Card Centre’s digital transformation journey is a story of lifelong learning and constant innovation, one that breaks stereotypes around mature enterprises and shows that anyone and everyone can stay on top of prevailing market trends with the right mindset, strategy, talent, and foresight.


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