DBS Group Holdings, Southeast Asia’s largest bank, announced that it had suffered an outage in its digital banking services, which resulted in users being unable to access online banking services for 10 hours. This was not the first time the bank experienced disruptions, as there was another outage in October. As a response to these digital disruptions, the bank reduced compensation for its senior management by 21% from the previous year, with Chief Executive Piyush Gupta bearing the biggest cut of 30%. Despite these issues, DBS reported record earnings of SGD 10.3 billion for the full year in 2023, which represented a 26% increase from the previous year’s earnings.
DBS also proposed a final dividend of 54 cents per share, bringing its total dividends distributed in 2023 to SGD 1.92, a 28% increase from the previous year. The bank also suggested a 1-for-10 bonus share issue and announced that the ordinary dividend will be SGD 2.16 per share for the enlarged share base in 2024, representing a 24% increase over the 2023 figure. Furthermore, the bank confirmed that it maintained its full-year net income interest forecast for 2024 at the same level as the previous year, despite expectations of a softening in interest rates and persistent geopolitical tensions globally. Even with these concerns, DBS expressed confidence in its franchise strengths to maintain its performance in the coming year.
Official entities like The Monetary Authority of Singapore labeled the March outage as “unacceptable”, stating that DBS and Citibank had to investigate the system outages. The bank benefited from higher interest rates in 2023, but there are fears that bank profits could slow down in the second half of the year due to central banks beginning to pivot towards cutting interest rates. These developments align with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s shift to a more dovish stance, with markets now pricing in possible rate cuts as early as May 2024. The first Fed meeting in January concluded with the central bank holding its benchmark borrowing rate in a range between 5.25% and 5.5%.