Staff Reporters
Jun 29, 2020

Asia-Pacific Power List 2020: Karen Ngui, DBS

While DBS' brand value has continued to grow, its marketing head is accelerating the company's focus on purpose-driven marketing activities.

Asia-Pacific Power List 2020: Karen Ngui, DBS
Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers

Karen Ngui

Strategic marketing & communications managing director

Returning member

Karen Ngui has sought to balance the compulsions of building her company’s brand with the need to be an empathetic and purpose-driven marketer at this time. In 2019, DBS was named ASEAN’s and Singapore’s most valuable brand for the seventh consecutive year, according to BrandFinance, with a brand value of US$9.03 billion, up 39%. Globally, its brand value continued to grow, moving up six spots to No. 34 among banks worldwide.

Over the past 18 months, Ngui oversaw the second season of Sparks, an award-winning mini-series, themed “Everyday Heroes for a Better World” that follows a group of DBS bankers as they partner with the community to address pressing issues of the day. These include plastic pollution, food waste and social inequality. The episodes are inspired by the stories of social enterprises (SEs) such as Evoware from Indonesia and Bettr Barista from Singapore. Since its 2016 debut, the 10 episodes of Sparks Season 1 have collectively garnered more than 250 million views, and over 24 million digital engagements across the region. 

In addition to Sparks, Ngui has also driven the awareness of the importance of sustainability through experiential and on-ground activations. Sustainability was the main premise of DBS Marina Regatta 2019, the bank’s flagship lifestyle and dragon boating festival, held annually to enliven Singapore’s downtown Marina Bay area. In 2019, the theme, 'The Race Against Time', served as a rallying call to create a more sustainable future together.

Ngui also drove several innovative internal communications programs, including a 'Swap More, Shop Less' event to encourage employees to adopt sustainable fashion choices, and a 'Kids@Work' event to educate children and their parents on sustainable practices.

In addition, 2019 was also the first full year of operation for the DBS Sparks Studio, the firm’s inhouse content production studio with full production capabilities. The inhouse content team allows the firm to be more agile and experimental in creating content for social and digital channels, even as it tries new formats such as audio and augmented reality content.

In the past few months many of these on-ground initiatives have been upended by the pandemic, pushing Ngui to recast her marketing plans. Ngui channelled the bank’s marketing budget towards a variety of regional initiatives that included:

  • A partnership with The Food Bank Singapore to enhance Singapore’s food donation ecosystem
  • Initiatives in Greater China to reduce food loss in farms due to transport and export constraints during the Covid-19 outbreak. As of April 2020, over 2,500 kilograms of oranges have been rescued and sold through a BUY4GOOD programme in China.
  • A partnership with the Akshaya Patra Foundation in India—which runs the world’s largest school lunch programme to end child classroom hunger—in a campaign to provide more meals for children.
Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers


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