It is not often we get to celebrate a South African success story, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has created unforeseen challenges for individuals and businesses alike.
Just five years ago when African Bank, SA’s 6th largest retail bank, was relaunched, the message at the time was clear. We are here to stay and advance lives and to create value for current and future stakeholders. Rebuilding trust and consumer confidence is never something to take lightly. Sbusiso Kumalo, African Bank’s Chief Marketing Officer, says, “We knew it was going to be tough and would probably take longer than we would have liked, but our strategy was clear – we needed to diversify our range of products and services and move from a single-product business, operating through a single channel, to a diversified financial services business which would be inclusive and attract more customers. We had to build our Omni-channel IT platform from scratch and that in itself was a momentous task.”
Today the Bank is reaping the rewards, benefiting from the flexibility and value that it has created for customers. Rather than being bogged down with complicated legacy systems, it has the flexibility and agility to keep building for the benefit of its people and customers.
“What this means for an emerging digital challenger like African Bank is that the agility that we have built into our Digital solutions and low-cost operating models, allows us to continually adapt the nature of the financial products and services that we offer. It enables us to influence the rapid adoption of these services across our digital platforms,” says Kumalo.
There have been a number of highlights over the last five years, not least of which was the launch of its transactional product MyWORLD in May 2018. The product was carefully researched and the first on the market to cater for family banking with its unique fully transactional Pockets that are also accompanied by a debit card for each Pocket. Fast track to 2021, and the product has attracted over 365 0000 customers with an average balance of about R2 000 each. “In August this year we saw a massive increase of over 120% in new customers! A new record for the bank,” adds Kumalo.
The growth in the retail portfolio, which is now sitting at just over R10 billion, showing close to 1000% growth since its R1 Billion high in 2018, is particularly impressive. Kumalo puts this growth down to a handful of key factors. “If we really want to enrich lives, then it’s important that we do just that with SA’s most competitive investment rate. It is something we have been unwavering on since we re-launched the Bank and that has really helped our customers earn the most they can in a risk-free investment. We also took a decision to recognise all investments as equal. This means that if you can only invest R500, you will earn the same competitive interest rate as someone who has invested R4 000 or R400 000 for example. This is a unique approach from African Bank and something we are very proud of.”
The other key factor relates to customer experience or the X-factor as Kumalo likes to refer to it. “We adopted an obsessive focus on customer experience and customer journeys, whether it was from our Contact Centre, in our branches or online. That focus has taken priority over the last 18 months with Covid-19 and so many people having to struggle with personal and financial issues. For African Bank we knew we couldn’t just pay lip service to what we stand for. How can we have a tagline, which says “we are you” if we are not placing ourselves in the shoes of our customers? We had to show up and offer support, products and an experience that lived up to that promise.”
From an experience perspective the results speak for themselves. In 2019, just three years after participating in the SA-csi survey, the Bank jumped from fourth place in 2018 to first place in 2019, also leading in two of the different product categories, of which Savings and Investments was one. Last year, it came in a close second, outperforming a number of larger banks during the height of the pandemic. “Placing customers at the centre of everything we do and making them feel important and valued is paramount,” he says. For a bank of African Bank’s size its performance is noteworthy particularly as it scored so highly in areas it had prioritised, namely Perceived Value, Customer Loyalty, Complaint Resolution and Treating Customers Fairly.
Reaching the R10 billion savings and investment landmark is validation that our efforts have been well received by our customers. “For us, that is 10 billion expressions of trust from our customers and we are humbled and privileged that so many people have placed their trust and confidence in African Bank,” concludes Kumalo.