DBS boss Piyush Gupta takes US$3 million pay cut over Singapore digital banking disruptions

DBS Group Holdings Ltd.’s fourth-quarter profit came in short of analyst expectations amid signs of pressure on margins. And while 2023 results hit a record, Chief Executive Officer Piyush Gupta’s compensation got hit due to last year’s digital banking disruptions.

Net profit, excluding one-time items, rose 2 per cent to S$2.39 billion (US$1.78 billion) in the three months ended December 31, Singapore’s biggest lender said in a statement on Wednesday. That was below the S$2.44 billion average estimate by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Last year’s outages that saw payment and ATM transactions stalled across the city state have resulted in the variable pay for DBS’ group management committee being collectively cut by 21 per cent from a year earlier. This includes a deeper 30 per cent reduction for Gupta, one of the highest paid executives in the country, amounting to S$4.1 million.

“We’ve taken accountability,” Gupta said at an earnings briefing. “I think that’s a good element of governance.”

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DBS is the first of major Singapore banks reporting results, showing how its robust performance that has been propelled by elevated interest rates may have peaked as rates are expected to decline this year.

Rivals United Overseas Bank Ltd. and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp will report results later this month.

In November, the Monetary Authority of Singapore had banned DBS from acquiring new business ventures and reducing local branch and ATM networks for six months after a spate of digital banking service outages.

The actions followed repeated and prolonged disruptions of DBS’ online banking services last year, prompting Gupta to apologise to customers and assure them the bank is addressing the issues “with utmost priority.” DBS said on Wednesday customers can expect greater service reliability, as well as alternative channels for payments and enquiries should issues happen.

Customers use DBS bank ATMs at a branch in Singapore. Photo: Reuters

Under Gupta’s leadership since November 2009, DBS has expanded operations in India, Taiwan and mainland China through acquisitions and organic growth. He has also strengthened the bank’s wealth management business, which is now one of the largest in Asia in terms of assets under management.

For 2023, the bank’s net profit already exceeded S$10 billion, a target it had set for itself for the medium term. It posted return on equity of 18 per cent.

Gupta said that even though interest rates are expected to soften and geopolitical tensions to persist, the bank should sustain its performance in the coming year.



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