DBS CEO on online allegations: I don't need to make pronouncements as actions speak louder than words

The panelists discussed topics related to leadership and what they considered integral tenets of good leadership.

Matthias Ang | September 25, 2020, 10:53 AM

The inaugural Inconvenient Questions Special Panel was held on September 24

The panelists featured were Piyush Gupta (CEO and Director of DBS), Lim Siong Guan (Former Head Singapore Civil Service), Jessica Tan (Group Co-CEO Ping An Group), and Hsieh Tsun-Yan (former Managing Director ASEAN and Canada Practices, McKinsey & Company).

The panel, organised by the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), was moderated by IQ founder and former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Viswa Sadasivan.

The panelists discussed topics related to leadership and what they considered integral tenets of good leadership post Covid-19.

Other points discussed involved the concept or portrayal of failure in Singapore, transparency with those under the leaders, and the reluctance to apologise by higher ups.

A culture of brutal honesty

Piyush, when talking about a culture of accountability and feedback, talked about how he was trying to cultivate a culture of brutal honesty in DBS, much like the one observed in Netflix.

Viswa then, being brutally honest himself, pivoted the question to a more topical subject.

Claims that the finance sector, in this case DBS, had disproportionate foreign representation made the rounds a while back, with a picture taken in India falsely attributed to their Singapore offices.

Viswa asked how Piyush, as a leader, reacted to the initial online outrage.

To that, Piyush replied that there was no need to respond to everything, as there will always be people with different views.

He also said action speaks louder than words. With this instance being one of them.

"...the thing about DBS today, my senior management team is a hundred per cent Singaporean, my technology leadership is 100 per cent Singaporean, 90 per cent of my senior leaders, everybody's Singaporeans."

Piyush went on to explain why he thought these issues were being brought up at this point in time:

"From my view and to go back to context and having an empathy or a nose of the context: You can't be naive, and this is true, not just in Singapore, this is true globally. There is a sense of insecurity among people, the economics are not good, people are worried about jobs, that kind of environment has to be a degree of circling the wagon, you see it in country after country.

Not surprising that you see that in Singapore. You can't let yourself overreact to that, but it’s just the reality of the situation and the reality of how humans will behave and react. So you've got to accept that that’s the way life is. As long as you're honest to yourself you know you're doing the right thing. You don't need to worry about these things."

Piyush was born in India and became Singaporean.

MP Derrick Goh's statement

Piyush's statement was earlier mentioned by the People's Action Party (PAP) MP Derrick Goh in Parliament on September 1, who pointed out that DBS's current leadership was made up of Singaporeans, "except for one person who is Malaysian, and a [Permanent Resident]."

The Managing Director and Head of Group Audit at DBS Bank, Goh had been responding to Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai, who stated that since the appointment of John Olds as CEO of the bank in 1998, "DBS is still without a home-grown CEO."

As for the Facebook post in question, it was also criticised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament on September 2, as "fake news."

PM Lee stated:

"That picture was taken in India, where DBS had opened a new office, not in Singapore. The person who put up the post surely knew this, yet he irresponsibly misused the wefie to insinuate that DBS in Singapore was not being fair to Singaporeans."

Totally unrelated but follow and listen to our podcast here