DBS poaches from global tech giant in artificial intelligence push

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DBS has appointed a head of conversational artificial intelligence for consumer banking as it bids to strengthen its status as a regional leader in banking AI. Yuliya Seregina has joined DBS from the Singapore office of SAP, the German enterprise software giant, where she was APAC digital transformation programme director for industries and digital leadership, according to her online profile.

Seregina’s hire comes as DBS ramps up its investments in conversational AI. In 2016, it became the first bank in Asia to launch an AI chatbot when it rolled out Digibank Virtual Assistant, a system developed with US-based Kasisto, a spin-off from the brains behind Apple's voice assistant Siri. The platform allows customers to make simple banking transactions conversationally via Facebook Messenger and eventually other applications such as WhatsApp and WeChat.

Seregina’s move is also indicative of how technology recruitment at local Singaporean banks is increasingly focused on specialist fields such as AI. By contrast, as we reported last month, business-as-usual vacancies focused on legacy systems or hardware infrastructure are declining in popularity.

The DBS role is Seregina’s first job at a bank. She spent two years at SAP, her second stint at the company having previously worked as head of its centre of excellence for platform solutions in Russia from 2012 to 2015. Seregina led technology for a Kazakhstan gas company in between these two SAP positions.

Hiring from global tech firms such as SAP, Google and Alibaba has become somewhat of a Holy Grail for banks in Singapore and Hong Kong, which are keen to tap their talent in emerging technologies. Although tech-firm-to-banking recruitment is still relatively rare (many developers prefer the relaxed office culture and agile working practices of pure-play tech companies), Seregina’s appointment is proof that these hires are taking place.

DBS – which, perhaps a little optimistically, now calls itself a ‘23,000-person start-up’ – will be hoping that snaring Seregina will help it attract other high-profile developers from the likes of SAP as it continues to recruit in AI and in technology more broadly. As we noted last month, almost 40% of its vacancies are in tech, the highest percentage of any domestic bank.

The firm is trying to boost the speed and volume of its tech recruitment by running an annual hackathon in Singapore, Hack2Hire, in which techies work in teams to solve real-life business problems. DBS aims to take on about 100 people a year via this event, including scrum masters, mobile application developers, full stack developers, DevOps engineers, QA engineers, and UI/UX developers.

Meanwhile, DBS’s current technologists have even been building AI into hiring processes. In June, the bank launched Southeast Asia’s first virtual bank recruiter, Jim, to help its HR team hire wealth-planning managers more efficiently.

Prior to working for SAP in Moscow, Seregina was a business analytics and EDW consultant, and an EIM solution architect at Accenture in the same city. She started her career in 2007 as a solution architect and C++/C# developer, working with small and medium-sized companies.

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