There’s no argument over how centralization can increase corporate efficiency. The ability to bring business activities under one roof enables firms to reduce costs, create economies of scale, and streamline operations. So when DBS Bank Ltd. (DBS) made the strategic decision to centralize its Trade Finance operations in the late 1990s, it wasn’t a question of whether – but rather, with whom – to centralize.

The right solution at the right time

Following a rigorous evaluation process involving several vendors, it became clear to DBS that Surecomp’s IMEX Trade Finance Banking System was the way to go. “IMEX came just at the right time,” says David Faulkner, DBS’s Managing Director of Transaction Services. “The system gave us the technological piece of the solution that was needed to restructure our Trade Finance department.”

With all eyes now turned to IMEX – an online, real-time processing and decision support system that handles the full range of Trade Finance applications – DBS and Surecomp focused on ensuring successful integration with DBS’s existing systems. “System integration is so complicated that when you buy an outsourced solution, you can encounter difficulties integrating it into your current system,” says Faulkner.

Strengthening the bond

Despite the growing pains, the challenge to prove that buying IMEX was the right decision – both on a technological and business level – only strengthened the bond between DBS and Surecomp. “We needed each other,” says Faulkner. “And the problems we encountered at the outset forced us to make the system work even better than anticipated. Throughout this process, we developed a particularly close relationship with Surecomp that still exists to this day.”

“Throughout this process, we developed a particularly close relationship with Surecomp that still exists to this day.”

DBS management initially had one main objective in mind when it purchased IMEX – to centralize Trade Finance operations by creating a regional processing center that would bring the Bank’s multiple entities together into one platform. To expedite this goal, DBS broke down the project into three stages. At the first stage, in Q4/2001, Surecomp installed IMEX into DBS’s Kwong On facility in Hong Kong.

The system proved itself quickly at Kwong On: with its parameter-driven architecture and data warehousing capabilities, IMEX gave the facility the core Trade Finance functionality that DBS required.

Within less than a year, Surecomp installed IMEX into DBS’s other Hong Kong facilities – Dao Heng Bank and Overseas Trust Bank. During this time the DBS-Surecomp connection only improved. “It was a two-way street,” Faulkner says. “We had a good business and technological relationship, and everyone benefited.”

By March 2003, the Bank’s Singapore facility was converted, marking the end of stage three and the conclusion of the original installation agreement.

“IMEX has proved to be strategically important for DBS as we further consolidate.”

Strategic importance

Faulkner says that the value of IMEX has gone well beyond its original goal to centralize, standardize and regionalize DBS’s Trade Finance activities. “In addition to helping us establish a regional processing center and improving our efficiency, IMEX has proved to be strategically important for DBS as we further consolidate,” he says. “IMEX has taken the regionalization process beyond what I ever thought, and has given us insight into developing more solutions beyond IMEX.”

About DBS Bank

DBS Bank is the largest bank in Singapore as measured by assets, with dominant positions in consumer banking, treasury and markets, securities brokerage, and equity and debt fundraising. With the merger of its wholly-owned Dao Heng Bank and DBS Kwong On Bank operations in Hong Kong, DBS Bank is now the fourth-largest banking group in Hong Kong. Beyond the anchor markets of Singapore and Hong Kong, DBS Bank serves corporate, institutional and retail customers through its operations in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. In China, the bank has branches and representative offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Fuzhou and Tianjin. The Bank’s credit ratings are among the highest in the Asia-Pacific region.

More information about DBS Group Holdings and DBS Bank can be obtained from their website.