Making digital upskilling fun has allowed a major Singapore bank to leave its tread marks in the global DeepRacer Championship Cup.

The Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) is taking innovative steps to futureproof its workforce, by developing a critical mass of employees equipped with fundamental skills in AI and Machine Learning (ML) by the end of 2020.

Having set its sights on accelerating the use of AI and ML across its business, the bank has partnered with Amazon Web Services to launch the ‘DBS x AWS DeepRacer League’. DBS employees will learn the basics of AI and ML by participating in a series of hands-on online tutorials before putting their new knowledge to the test by programming their own autonomous model race car. These ML models are then uploaded onto a virtual racing environment where employees can experiment and iteratively finetune their models as they engage each other in friendly competition.

Through this gamified platform, DBS expects that at least 3,000 employees—including the bank’s senior leadership—will have learned new AI and ML skills by year’s end. The platform will be run completely online powered by AWS, from classroom to racetrack. This comes on the back of the bank’s efforts to scale up its digital learning tools and platforms to upskill its employees even when they are not always physically in the office this year.

Said Paul Cobban, the bank’s Chief Data and Transformation Officer: “As a technology company that provides banking services, we are keenly aware of the need to stay ahead of the technology curve to continue exceeding our customers’ expectations. We have never believed in limiting digital expertise to a small team. Instead, we passionately believe in democratizing technology skillsets among all employees, so that they can run alongside the company as we advance on our digital transformation together.”

Additionally, Cobban said the bank wanted to adopt a different approach from their previous digital and data skills revolutions. “In line with our ethos of keeping work and learning fun, we sought to introduce gamification elements to better engage our employees, and the (platform) presented the perfect opportunity.”

While similar gamified corporate learning platforms have been organized in other parts of the world, the DBS program is the largest among Asian-headquartered enterprises and one of the first in the world to be organized at scale by a financial institution.

Going beyond gamified learning

According to Conor McNamara, Managing Director, AWS ASEAN: “We are excited to collaborate with DBS to develop a talent pool that can further unlock the flexibility and power of cloud technology.”

Bank employees who develop a flair and passion for AI and ML are encouraged to stretch themselves beyond the program and pit their skills at global competitions. Recently, Executive Director of Technology & Operations, Ray Goh, had already emerged as global champion in the virtual AWS DeepRacer League F1 ProAm Event, even beating Renault F1 Team driver Daniel Ricciardo.

Additionally, another four DBS employees had won places in the global Top 20. In all, six DBS employees have qualified for the AWS DeepRacer Championship Cup to be held in Las Vegas at the close of the year. Said Goh: “When I first got involved… I wanted to challenge myself by participating in the AWS DeepRacer League, but I certainly did not expect to come this far! I’m delighted to be able to do Singapore and DBS proud, and more importantly, to inspire my colleagues to join me in developing a deeper level of mastery in AI and ML, which are both important skills for the bank and the digital economy.”