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DBS considering expansion in Dubai, CEO Piyush Gupta says

SINGAPORE - DBS Group Holdings is considering an expansion in Dubai, making South-east Asia’s biggest lender the latest financial company 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 Piyush Gupta said on Tuesday in an interview with news anchor 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.

Mr Gupta’s remarks underscore the growing importance of Dubai, which is emerging as a favoured 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, Mr 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, Mr 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 involved 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 2023, 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 penalising 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.” BLOOMBERG