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DBS is considering expansion in Dubai, CEO Piyush Gupta says

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - OCTOBER 02: Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS Bank attends the TIME100 Leadership Forum on October 02, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images for TIME)
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - OCTOBER 02: Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS Bank attends the TIME100 Leadership Forum on October 02, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images for TIME)

By Natalie Choy and Xiao Zibang

(Bloomberg) — DBS Group Holdings Ltd. is considering an expansion in Dubai, making Southeast Asia’s biggest lender the latest financial firm to explore scaling up in the Middle Eastern business hub.

“We’re revisiting the thesis that there is real opportunity to do more stuff out of Dubai and this region,” Chief Executive Officer Piyush Gupta said Tuesday in an interview with Yousef Gamal El-Din at the Dubai FinTech Summit. The Singapore-based lender’s presence in the region is limited and “there’s an opportunity to scale it up,” he said.

Gupta’s remarks underscore the growing importance of Dubai, which is emerging as a favored destination for hedge funds and financial firms, drawn by its ease of doing business, tax-free status and its allure as a nexus for global travel.

Hubs like Dubai can act as a neutral player in a multipolar world, being able to intermediate flows from the West and the East, Gupta said.

GoldenTree Asset Management recently joined a cohort of hedge funds including Millennium Management that have opened offices in the city.

Elsewhere, some of the private equity industry’s biggest names are expanding in the Middle East to develop closer ties with the region’s deep-pocketed investors and source dealmaking opportunities.

Digital woes

Separately, Gupta said the bank is reviewing its infrastructure for ways to improve its recovery capabilities, in his first public comments after the most recent disruption to digital banking services.

The bank was slapped with higher capital requirements after the issues Singapore’s regulator called “unacceptable.”

Two earlier incidents were around software glitches, he said.

“The most recent thing was just coincidental,” he added, saying the bank’s infrastructure is robust.

In 2021, the bank suffered one of its worst digital disruptions in the past decade. In March this year, DBS’ digital banking services in Singapore were disrupted for about 10 hours. Just over a month later, its digital systems were again disrupted for 45 minutes, according to the bank.

“I’m a firm believer in the fact that if you start penalizing people every time something goes wrong, you will never build the kind of culture you want to build,” he said. “The culture of risk taking, entrepreneurship and winning.”

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