'Jim' the chatbot helps DBS hire wealth managers

[SINGAPORE] Singapore's largest bank is getting help from a chatbot named Jim in its drive to select good candidates for its fast-growing business advising customers on managing their wealth.

DBS Group Holdings says the artificial intelligence (AI) programme introduced last year has sped up and improved the quality of initial screening for so-called wealth planners, or entry-level staff in its consumer banking operation.

About one-third of the candidates who passed Jim's vetting went on to get jobs with DBS, compared with only one-seventh under the previous system which relied solely on human recruiters, according to Susan Cheong, the bank's head of talent acquisition.

Under its chief executive officer Piyush Gupta, DBS has been trying to re-engineer itself from a brick-and-mortar bank so that it operates more like a technology company. DBS runs one of the largest open application programming interfaces in the banking industry, and the hiring chatbot is one of several technology initiatives launched in recent years.

The key to Jim's success is its lack of bias compared with a human recruiter in screening resumes based on age, gender or educational background, Ms Cheong said in a recent interview. For example, humans have a tendency to unfairly favour candidates from a certain educational background if they have successfully recruited others from the same schools, Ms Cheong said.

"Jim is fair because it uses the exact same logic filtering out the applicants at the first stage, so that everyone has an equal chance," she said.

DBS is one of a growing number of global firms seeking to enhance their hiring process with artificial intelligence. A 2017 study by PwC said about 40 per cent of the companies it surveyed are using AI to speed up and improve recruitment.

Thanks to Jim, "our quality of recruitment has improved dramatically, substantially, in terms of who we get," CEO Gupta said at Bloomberg's Sooner Than You Think conference last month.

Jim - short for Job Intelligence Maestro - has also shortened the recruitment process since he was switched on last year, Ms Cheong said. On average, recruiters now take about eight minutes to assess a candidate, compared with about 30 minutes before the bank deployed the chatbot, she added.

That's important because of the scale of DBS's hiring in wealth management, reflecting the priority the bank places on expanding those services.

In 2018, some 5,000 applicants applied for 400-500 jobs as DBS wealth planners, who typically deal with the investment needs of the bank's retail customers. After about 18-24 months, the planners get a chance to move on to more senior positions, which might include dealing with richer clients.

The DBS chatbot uses cognitive and personality tests to assess candidates, as well as answering questions on issues such as how soon the candidate will hear back from DBS, the length of any probation period, and career progression prospects at the bank. A human recruiter then looks at the resulting scores and takes the final decision on whether the applicant should proceed to a face-to-face interview with the hiring manager.

The computer is now being trained to converse in Bahasa Indonesia and Chinese, to complement DBS's plans to expand its wealth management business in mainland China, Taiwan and Indonesia, Ms Cheong said. And DBS doesn't rule out further use of AI in later stages of the interview process, after the screening has taken place, she said.

"While we currently don't want to lose the human element in the recruiting process, we are open to exploring whether AI could be used during a face-to-face interview with shortlisted candidates in future."

BLOOMBERG