HISTORY tells stories of how the corporate mighty have fallen, as large organisations consistently miss disruption from new players.
Against that, large companies in Singapore must build an upstart culture and, in doing so, be part of creating an innovative society, said Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, on Thursday.
Speaking at the launch of DBS Academy, Mr Tharman said large companies do not typically take the lead when it comes to disruptive plays.
"That's true all over the world," he said. "History is littered with examples of large, successful organisations that had their meal taken away from them by new players."
And as the financial industry is seeing disruption, traditional lenders must be part of the same game, the DPM said, referring to examples of crowdfunding, robo-advisers for wealth management, and cheaper forms of remittances.
He noted that DBS, while being the largest lender in Singapore, is using technology to be a "disruptive upstart" in overseas markets.
"That's a very clever strategy," he said. "Technology can be a very useful way of gaining market share."
Mr Tharman also urged companies to keep organisational borders porous, cutting out silos and, like in the case of DBS, working with non-banks such as startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop ideas.
At DBS Academy - a 40,000 square foot learning centre in Changi Business Park - employees will have access to thousands of training sessions each year. Staff are expected to think like startups, and build their understanding of technology.
"You gain confidence by being in this type of atmosphere - not in the formal classroom, where you realise that most people don't know that much to begin with, anyway. Some claim they do, but they don't," said Mr Tharman.
"At the end of the day, you have to create an innovative society, and companies are key players in creating an innovative society," he added.
In launching its new learning centre, DBS also announced that it would match the S$500 SkillsFuture credit from the government for its senior associates and junior staff.
DBS chairman Peter Seah said the rapid wave of change and competition in the financial industry has made training all the more crucial.
"Banks in Asia are facing an unprecedented level of competition from fintechs, mobile and Internet companies," he said. "At the same time, as Singapore gears up for its transition to a Smart Nation, we need to arm our workforce with the skills and mindsets needed to thrive in this fast-changing landscape."