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DBS CEO dismisses work-life balance as ‘baloney’, while netizens ridicule ‘work is life’ if people could earn like him

In a recent podcast interview with CNA, DBS CEO Piyush Gupta dismissed the concept of work-life balance as “baloney.”

Some defend his perspective, while others question it, considering his substantial salary and suggest he could retire early, unlike common workers expected to work until 68.



SINGAPORE: In a recent podcast interview with Singapore state media CNA, DBS CEO Piyush Gupta expressed his strong belief that the concept of work-life balance “is all baloney”.

He clarified that he doesn’t advocate for people to work all the time, ” I’m very eclectic and have a lot of time for things I do, it’s just that I believe that work is a part of life.”

In an episode of CNA‘s podcast series “The Leader’s Chair”, 63-year-old Piyush Gupta discussed the challenges he faces as a CEO, particularly in light of recent disruptions to the DBS app.

He emphasized the significance of leaders taking responsibility and cited former U.S. President Harry Truman’s famous quote, “The buck stops here,” to underline his belief in accountability.

“It doesn’t matter what the nature of the problem is, as the CEO of the company, I’m accountable. ”

“Whether the problem was with a third-party provider, or with the errant employee, or it was just an accident … as far as the consumer is concerned, I’m the CEO of the bank so I’ve got to fix it.”

“I tell young kids, when people are looking for what it takes to be a leader, I tell them individual accountability is the first thing I look for.”

Additionally, Gupta acknowledged that a difficult aspect of leadership is striking a balance between ensuring accountability within the team and providing support and protection, which he referred to as “air cover.”

He highlighted that many companies suffer from a “blame culture,” leading to fear among employees and adverse outcomes.

Co-host Crispina Robert later raised a significant question about the personal aspect of work-related issues and their impact on individuals. She acknowledged that work is an integral part of one’s life, leading to work-related situations feeling personal despite others dismissing them as mere work matters.

Gupta argues people spend extensive time at work

Agreeing with this perspective, Gupta emphasized the extensive time people spend working, ranging from eight to ten hours a day.

“your friends are there, your colleagues are there, you’re impact is there, your growth is there and income is there, how do you diverse that from life?”

“Therefore, this notion that something is personal, and something is not, is not easy.”

Gupta continued, “For me, I’ve always believed that you’ve got to be friends.  you’ve got to be able to make sure people feel like they’re part of a family, you got to make sure the emotional environment is one of being together and being one. If you can achieve that you get really extraordinary work outcomes.”

While Mr Gupta strongly disbelief in work-life balance, netizens note that he earns S$15.4 million salary per year

Mr Gupta’s recent remarks on work-life balance have ignited intense debates on social media.

Some have pointed out that work is an integral part of life, especially for hardworking Singaporeans striving to support their families and afford a home, while others have sarcastically questioned Mr Gupta’s credibility to offer advice on work-life balance, given his staggering S$15.4 million salary in 2022.

One netizen, commenting on Mothership’s Facebook post, expressed that it’s easier for top earners to advocate for work-life balance as they have the financial means to manage all aspects of life comfortably.

However, for the majority who don’t earn enough, the little pleasures like weekends and evenings become precious moments of respite.

Mr Gupta could “retire early and enjoy work-life balance”, while “commoners” expected to work until the age of 68

One comment astutely points out that given Mr Gupta’s influential position, if he doesn’t believe in work-life balance, it’s highly likely that those below him also face challenges in achieving work-life balance.

The comment sarcastically suggests that he could retire early and enjoy a work-life balance while the common workers, referred to as “commoners,” are expected to work until the age of 68.

‘Work is life’?

Amidst the ongoing discussion, independent journalist and activist Kirsten Han chimed in with a touch of sarcasm, jesting that if she were earning S$15.4 million annually like Mr Gupta, she might also adopt the perspective that work is an integral part of life.

Many netizens echoed Kirsten Han’s sentiment, asserting that they too would find immense satisfaction in dedicating themselves to work if they were to earn a CEO-level salary like his.

Adding a humorous twist to the conversation, Singapore’s long-distance runner, Soh Rui Yong, playfully suggested that some individuals might even believe work is intertwined with their sex life:

Netizens defending work-life-balance

On the other side of the discussion, several netizens are staunchly defending the importance of work-life balance.

They point out that while Mr Gupta holds a position in upper management and may express his opinions freely, there remains a critical question: What is the benefit of dedicating all your hours to work while neglecting the relationships with your spouse and children?

‘Work-rest balance’

Meanwhile, some comments argue that work-life balance may not always be achievable in reality, as unforeseen urgent matters can arise, demanding immediate attention, even during vacation or personal time.

While some suggest that Mr Gupta not wrong at all, as the term should be work-rest balance. Work is part of life. And rest is also a must-have in life.

DBS CEO embarrassed by disruption of DBS banking services twice this year

In the CNA podcast, DBS CEO Mr Gupta addressed the challenges and accountability as a leader in handling various issues, including the digital outages that occurred twice this year on 5th May and 29th March.

During the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in March, Mr Gupta openly expressed feeling embarrassed about the outage.

“As such a well-known digital and technology bank, this embarrasses us. We are committed to doing better,” Gupta said.

“Ensuring uninterrupted digital banking services 24/7 has been our key priority. Unfortunately, we fell short of it and are truly sorry.”

At the AGM, DBS Chairman Peter Seah also humbly bowed to shareholders, offering apologies on behalf of the bank.

He described the incident as “very unfortunate” and “disappointing” and acknowledged that customers have every right to expect more from the bank. In response to the gravity of the situation, a special board committee was immediately convened to conduct a thorough investigation.

Following the disruption in May, Gupta once again extended his apologies and reiterated the bank’s commitment to improvement.

During a Parliamentary Session on 5 July, then Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam further disclosed that human error in coding the system maintenance program was the cause of a 6.5-hour disruption to the bank’s digital banking and physical ATM services on 5 May.

“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,” Mr Tharman said.

March disruption caused by inherent software bugs

According to DBS, the cause of the incident is unrelated to the earlier March 2023 disruption, which was caused by inherent software bugs.

Mr Tharman stated that in response to the March incident, DBS established a Special Board Committee to oversee the investigation into the root cause and conduct a comprehensive review of the bank’s IT resilience.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has stated publicly that it regards this second disruption within a period of two months as unacceptable and that DBS had fallen short of MAS’ expectation for banks to deliver reliable services to their customers.

“Following the May 2023 disruption, MAS has required the Special Board Committee to extend its review to cover the latest incident and to use qualified independent third parties for the review. ”

Gupta’s total pay for last year increased by 13.2 percent to S$15.4 million

In May, MAS imposed an additional capital requirement on DBS Bank Ltd (DBS Bank), which, combined with the requirement imposed in February 2022, amounts to approximately S$1.6 billion in total additional regulatory capital.

On top of the three service disruptions, DBS also came under fire in June 2021 over a payment processing glitch that caused some customers to be charged twice on their credit and debit cards.

Meanwhile, DBS’s annual report released on 10 March shows that Gupta’s total pay for last year increased by 13.2 per cent to S$15.4 million. In 2021, his total pay was S$13.6 million, and the year before, S$9.2 million.

Ironically in the report, Gupta said that DBS needs to continue strengthening its technology in areas such as site reliability engineering.

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Which bank/CEO handles the ministers pay?The one who print it or process it must be saying WOW WOW WOW.Wondering how many in accounts department handle them?When doing reservist,my ns pay 2 weeks about 1500.Then my buddy sms ti ti,(20k),all of us WOW WOW WOW.He was a top broker.

I think Gupta’s demonstrating to PAP his out-of-touch credentials and with statements like this, will soon be welcomed with open arms into the party. Don’t be surprised if he handpicked to run in the elections and coattails himself into a ministerial position.

He is wrong.

All employers will milk the employee for everything that employee has.
All at a fixed cost, and with the threat of salary reduction, and worse, loss
of employment.

Each employee must build their own alternative incomes, and look out
for opportunities beyond their current employer.

I am certain he did that in his younger days, though coming from a wealthy
family, he had plenty of air bags placed under him if he should misstep.

Different breed, different life, different pay.