(Oct 4): Southeast Asia’s largest lender happens to be its most tech-savvy. Why then is Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings missing out on some of the region’s hottest deals in digital banking?

In recent years, technology has played a large role in the bank’s profitable pivot away from trade financing to corporate cash management. One of its application programming interfaces that hooks up with customers' software – it has some 500 of them – allows merchants on Indonesian e-retailer PT Bukalapak.com to get paid in real time. The same technology allows drivers at ride-hailing company Gojek to get fares credited from their app wallets into bank accounts. 

But though DBS is the most aggressive of Singapore’s three home-grown banks, bigger international rivals are capturing prime deals in its backyard. The No. 1 challenger is Citigroup Inc.

This week, the US bank won the mandate to issue the first co-branded credit card for Southeast Asian e-commerce. Alibaba Group Holding’s Lazada operates online stores in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Back in June, ride-share behemoth Grab Holdings Inc. announced a similar card partnership. That, too, was snagged by Citi.

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