Creating more tools for retail investors

PHOTO: Creating more tools for retail investors

DBS Bank's new head of consumer banking Tan Su Shan is concerned that retail investors may be losing out when their cash savings are eroded by inflation.

She said one of her key priorities is to create a larger pool of risk-adjusted investment tools for the retail investor.

Ms Tan, 45, who is also the head of DBS wealth management, today officially replaces Mr Tan Kong Khoon, who is relocating from Singapore for personal reasons.

Speaking in a recent interview, Ms Tan said: "Something I am passionate about is to engender a stronger savings programme for our Singaporean savers given our high inflation rate, even if it starts tapering off."

She noted that when consumers keep their money in cash, inflation erodes their savings.

That may be because the Singapore dollar investment space is not as developed or robust as in some of the more developed markets such as Hong Kong, she said.

From her vantage point as head of wealth management as well, Ms Tan believes that there will be value in having more offerings of high interest-bearing instruments that are of low volatility for the retail market.

For example, she explained, very few retail investors have access to bonds, which are typically sold in tranches of $250,000.

"Maybe in retail, you can start with $10,000 or $20,000? We have regular savings plans already; the plan is to build more and look for more risk-adjusted, liquid products," she added.

Ms Tan joined DBS in June 2010 in a high-profile move from Morgan Stanley, where she was head of private wealth management for South-east Asia. Before that, she was the region head for Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei at Citi Private Bank.

She is married with two children.

Since she joined the bank, Ms Tan has been sitting on DBS' consumer banking management committee because all of her wealth management clients "use our consumer banking products".

"What customers find convenient is that I can link their retail banking accounts with their investment accounts. If we can offer the convenience of retail and wealth management, we can create a very sticky relationship. The wealth management part will evolve and continue as the person gets older," she said.

Interest rates are at an all-time low, and do not look like they will rise in a hurry, which typically means that the highly interest rate-dependent consumer business becomes less profitable.

But Ms Tan believes DBS has been able to engineer a growth engine in consumer banking to be less reliant on interest rates and more reliant on fee income.

"If we can offer comprehensive retail and wealth solutions basically to mass market and upwards, then we are in a very good position to grow our top line and bottom line," she said.

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