The disruption to DBS’ digital banking services on May 5, 2023 was caused by human error, according to preliminary investigations by Singapore’s largest lender.

The bank found that “human error in coding the programme that was used for system maintenance” affected access to its online and automated teller machine (ATM) services for over six hours, said Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Wednesday (Jul 5).

“The error led to a significant reduction in system capacity, which in turn affected the system’s ability to process internet and mobile banking, electronic payment and ATM transactions,” said Mr Tharman in a written answer to a parliamentary question.

DBS initially said on May 5 that the disruption was caused by a “systems issue”, unrelated to an earlier day-long disruption in March.

According to the bank, the March disruption was caused by “inherent software bugs”, Mr Tharman noted on Wednesday.

CNA has reached out to DBS for more information.

Mr Tharman was responding to Member of Parliament Tan Wu Meng (People’s Action Party-Jurong), who had also asked what was being done to strengthen the reliability and resilience of retail banks’ digital services in Singapore.

Mr Tharman noted the creation of a special committee to investigate the earlier March outage. This committee has been ordered by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to extend its review to cover the latest incident, and to use qualified independent third parties. 

In May, DBS CEO Piyush Gupta said the committee review would be completed “as a matter of utmost priority” and that DBS would “implement all recommendations expeditiously”.

In the wake of the two successive service disruptions in the space of just over a month, MAS imposed an additional capital requirement on DBS.

The bank will now need to apply a multiplier of 1.8 times to its risk-weighted assets for operational risk, bringing its total additional regulatory capital to approximately S$1.6 billion (US$1.2 billion).

Capital requirements are standardised regulations that determine how much liquid capital banks must hold for a certain level of assets. A higher capital requirement may inhibit an institution’s ability to invest.

MAS’ move reflects the “seriousness” with which the authority views the disruptions and their impact on customers, said Mr Tharman.

“MAS may vary the size of the additional capital requirement imposed on the bank and take other regulatory actions depending on the outcome of ongoing reviews.”

He added that the central bank requires all retail banks in Singapore to ensure that their mission critical systems supporting digital banking are resilient. This includes having the ability to recover quickly from any system disruptions.

“Banks are subject to regular inspections and off-site reviews by MAS to ensure their adherence to regulatory requirements and expectations.”

Source: CNA