Gandalf has been guiding innovation at DBS Bank – and it’s not the sagely wizard we’re talking about

Does Gandalf work at DBS? No, but what the name stands for is a set of principles which has laid the foundation for innovation at the bank.

You may know Gandalf to be the bearded wizard with the pointy grey hat in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings series.

But at DBS Bank, the name invokes a different kind of sagely power.

It’s actually an acronym which lays out a set of principles for tech teams within the bank to align the technologies they’re developing. And it stands for: Google, Amazon, Netflix, DBS, Apple, LinkedIn and Facebook.

“In all fairness, (we also consider) the Chinese equivalents of those businesses. From each of those, we learn different things. We learn data science, culture, processes, how to do software,” said DBS’ chief innovation officer Neal Cross in a recent interview with Business Insider.

“It’s mainly based in the tech teams, so through the tech transformation, we think about what we learn from these very successful businesses.”

DBS has started to look less towards other banks, and more towards successful tech and e-commerce companies to drive its innovation forward.

So how is Gandalf applied?

Cross used the Netflix example, citing that the video streaming company has a culture of conducting numerous digital experience from which DBS hopes to learn from, through sitting in on talks, watching corporate videos and even pouring through case studies.

“Some people smile at that but it’s real. When I go talk to the tech teams, they talk through it in a Gandalf format,” said Cross.

It has come to a stage where, Cross, who has been with DBS since 2014, says Gandalf’s effects have even started to influence the business side of things and how the bank operates.

“Technology is business and business is technology now. The two are so interchangeable. The business drivers of success at the world’s largest companies is all tech-driven,” he said.