Digital Transformation at Game Changing Moment?

In adapting to supply chain disruptions and shifts in consumer behaviour in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, digital transformation is more important than ever. Key highlights from the DBS/East & Partners second “Digital Treasurer” benchmarking research tell us where businesses now stand in their digital journey.

Digital transformation at game changing moment?

Faced with unprecedented challenges of adapting to operational and supply chain changes overnight, remote customer acquisition and economic uncertainty, going digital is right back at the top of the agenda for businesses and corporates in Asia Pacific.

Rewind a year and businesses were still in the early stages of their digital journey with less than one in four (24.8 percent) large businesses in the region having a clearly defined digital strategy, despite most recognising the importance of digital transformation to improve their ability to survive and thrive (

So where do we stand now with business digital transformation? The DBS/East & Partners second “Digital Treasurer” benchmarking research is out.

Businesses Are Making Strides in Their Digital Transformation Journey

As businesses reshape their overall business strategy in response to the Covid pandemic, taking into account the shift in customer behaviour, supply chain disruptions, business model opportunities and operational continuity, they are having to take a step back and reassess their roadmaps. Many businesses are reporting a shift in their priorities and resources for the digital roadmap itself.

Despite these challenges, a larger proportion of businesses in Asia Pacific now have a clearly defined digital strategy relative to a year ago, according to insights research conducted by East & Partners for the DBS Digital Treasurer Index II. This figure has grown by 7.7 percent to reach 26.2 percent. At the same time, there is a material drop in the proportion of businesses with no strategy, falling from 25.1 percent a year ago to 18.7 percent. Taken together, these highlight an accelerating growth in digital strategy development among businesses in the region.

Current State of Digital Roadmap Development
% of businesses

Current State of Digital Roadmap Development

Source: East & Partners insights research for DBS’ Digital Treasurer Index II – H1 2020 (N count = 1,686)

Business digital transformation 

Reducing cost and improving efficiencies in the long run have always been the emphasis in many business cases for digitisation. But increasingly, enhancing customer experience is rising as a key driver and for good reason. Having a user friendly and seamless digital platform is now integral to ensuring business continuity, especially when direct interactions with customers are becoming increasingly remote.

In fact, improving customer experience has been highlighted as the greatest ROI from investing in technology solutions by treasuries in the region, alongside reducing cost. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our research suggests that middle-market enterprises stand to benefit more relative to the larger corporates when it comes to customer experience enhancement, levelling the playing field for market participants.

“Cost efficiencies were where we began developing business cases together for digitisation investments but we’ve actually found lots of other benefits that flow, in particular making our customers more sticky and spending more with us.”

- Treasurer, US$2.5Bn, Hong Kong Regional Hotel Group

Key Returns to Investment

Rating on a 1-5 scale, with 1= high return and 5=no return at all

Key Returns to Investment

Source: East & Partners insights research for DBS’ Digital Treasurer Index II – H1 2020 (N count = 1,686)

Where Are Businesses Investing in Treasury Services?
There has also been a shift in treasury investment focus. Cash management digitisation has initially led treasury digitisation in the region, as evidenced by the higher level of automation reported in cash management for large Asian businesses relative to other functions such as trade and supply chain financing, cross-border payments & FX, and risk & compliance reporting.
But now, businesses seem to have already eked out efficiencies in their cash management operations and looking to digitise their physical and financial supply chains. This is particularly prominent in Malaysia, India, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Indonesia where a majority of businesses are investing in new technology solutions related to trade and supply chain financing.

“We’ve currently got 3 supply chain funding and management development projects happening which will then drive a redevelopment of our cross-border payment operations.”

- Treasurer, US$1.4Bn, Malaysian Importer/Exporter

Top Investment Area for Each Market

% of businesses
Top Investment Area for Each Market

Source: East & Partners insights research for DBS’ Digital Treasurer Index II – H1 2020 (N count = 1,686)

What is your experience implementing digitisation projects in your organisation? What is the most valuable learning point that helped you along your journey?

We'd like to hear your thoughts and opinions, get in touch with us below.

We are delighted to provide you with access to an interactive benchmarking tool, where you can find out how your organisation measures up against your peers in digital readiness.

Upon completion of the tool, you will receive an assessment of your digital readiness via 4 core digital values. Kindly access the benchmarking tool here:
This article was first published by East & Partners on 20 August 2020. The Digital Treasurer Index Research 2020 was conducted by East & Partners, in partnership with DBS and The Corporate Treasurer.

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