DBS has named Rainer Wessler as its chief design officer. He joined from the Shanghai office of architecture and design firm Gensler, where he’d been regional head of digital since 2018.
Wessler has some big shoes to fill. His appointment follows the departure of previous design boss Chooake Wongwattanasilpa, who is now chief experience officer at Bank of Singapore. Wongwattanasilpa built up DBS’s first in-house design unit from scratch, taking its headcount from two to 50 in four years. “We’ve gone from wearing banker-like suits on our first day (and feeling very uncomfortable) to jeans and t-shirts,” he said in a 2018 blog post.
Wessler’s relocation from China to Singapore shows that banks continue to partly rely on overseas tech professionals, especially in niche senior roles like his. The extent of local tech talent shortages was laid bare earlier this month by Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Educated in Germany, Wessler worked for Frog, a design and strategy consultancy which is part of Capgemini, between 2010 and 2018, latterly as its Shanghai-based vice president of creative. His DBS job is his first in banking, but it’s not unusual for banks to hire from outside the finance sector for design roles at all levels.
The moves of Wessler and Wongwattanasilpa come after Maik Lutze joined Standard Chartered from Citi in Singapore in December as its global head of design and user experience for corporate, commercial and institutional banking.
Banks in Singapore have increased their hiring of design professionals over the past 15 months to help them build the new (or enhanced) customer-facing platforms that they have been launching as people and businesses perform more online transactions during the pandemic. Firms including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan have also been hiring globally for their design teams.
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