“We are in the front line,” said Gupta, 58, who took over at DBS in 2009 after rising up the ranks at Citigroup Inc. DBS is more exposed than U.S. and European counterparts, because technology firms like Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. have been slower than the Chinese to diversity into online finance, he said, adding that U.S. banks “could afford to be a little more sanguine.”
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Piyush Gupta sees himself as uncomfortably close to the action in the battle between traditional banks and China’s insurgent fintech giants. The chief executive officer of Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings Ltd. has been trying to re-engineer his brick-and-mortar bank so that it operates more like a technology company, in order to give it a better chance in the struggle with Chinese online payment firms Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Ant Financial, owned by billionaire Jack Ma. Both companies are targeting DBS’s core markets of Southeast Asia and India for expansion.