How will DBS maintain its momentum in digital banking following the loss of the talismanic Neal Cross? That’s partly down to two men: Bidyut Dumra and Mark Evans.
Cross, DBS’s charismatic, chino-wearing chief innovation officer (who is among the most high-profile figures in Singapore digital banking circles) announced on LinkedIn this week that he has left the firm to do a number of new things – Orangutan conservation in Indonesia among them.
Dumra and Evans appear to be jointly taking on many of Cross’ responsibilities. DBS has promoted Dumra, innovation head of ecosystems, to lead its innovation team, and appointed innovation management head Mark Evans to run its experience strategy team.
Cross is, to put it mildly, a tough act for them to follow. In 2016, he was voted the “most disruptive chief innovation officer/chief technology officer globally” by a panel which included Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Virgin boss Richard Branson. Last year Euromoney named DBS the world’s best digital bank, mentioning Cross as crucial to its success. “He’s been pivotal in DBS’s recent charge in digitalisation,” says Lucas Yeo, head of banking at recruiters Tangspac in Singapore. “He’s emphasised that innovation is first about finding the right business problem and then solving it in an elegant manner.”
Who are Dumra and Evans? Interestingly, neither of them have a banking background – which is in keeping with DBS’s desire to brand itself as a ‘23,000-person startup’ and its penchant for funky tech workplaces (DBS Asia X in Fusionopolis, for example). It’s also in keeping with the hiring strategy of their former boss. In a 2016 interview, Cross said he wasn’t recruiting bankers or developers into DBS’s innovation group and preferred to take on people who can run staff training programmes and hackathons. Strategists and consultants, in other words.
Newly-promoted Evans was based in Shanghai for about eight years before he joined DBS in Singapore in 2016. He worked for three and a half years in an APAC digital strategy role at Blue Hive and then moved to rival advertising agency R/GA, according to his LinkedIn profile. Evans had plenty of side gigs in the Chinese city. In 2010, he co-founded TechYiZu, a voluntary group that runs hackathons, startup workshops and other events for technologist and entrepreneurs. He was also CTO of JUCCCE, an energy-sector non-profit, for two years, and he’s been a mentor for Chinaccelerator, the first startup accelerator to launch in China, since 2013.
Dumra also joined DBS in 2016, having previously headed up Cathay Pacific’s innovation centre in Hong Kong for about two and a half years. Before Cathay, Dumra was a Hong Kong-based acting senior manager for the centre of excellence at the power company CLP. Like Evans, Dumra has worked on a wide range of side projects, dating back to 2003 when he launched strategy consultancy Bluebook Enterprises. He co-founded Mind Blowing Films, an India-focused movie-production company, in 2009, and Baebeeboo, a Hong Kong-based children’s clothing line, in 2015. Dumra has also helped to set up a pop-up art studio in Australia and a Hong Kong company that makes “mini ecosystems” in glass jars.
Meanwhile, Dumra’s former manager, Cross, is now giving his full attention to his personal projects. Cross says he’ll live mainly in Indonesia, where he’ll run two conservation-focused hotels and expand a charity devoted to protecting orangutans. He’s also now the chairman of Picture Wealth, an Australian fintech firm that he co-founded several years ago.
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