Future first

African Bank is embarking on a journey to provide added service underpinned by digital transformation

Across Africa, the global COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an accelerated migration of thousands of banking customers into the digital space. Not since the advent of the ATM has there been such a radical shift in financial behaviour. And banks that want to succeed in this new world have no choice but to embrace and enter this space, with innovation at the centre of their thinking.

According to McKinsey & Co, African banks need to consider three imperatives to build sustainable strength and resilience, namely high productivity, thoughtful risk management, and scaling up technology. Recognising this radical change in the landscape, African Bank has implemented a bold new strategy called Excellerate 2025, based on five sustainability levers – customer satisfaction; social responsibility; financial resilience; inclusivity; and environmental promotion. These priorities are underpinned by the prevailing digital-first environment.

African Bank’s Excellerate 2025 strategy is reinforced by the new digital-first environment

In a move designed to mirror this bold strategic outlook, African Bank has repositioned its brand using one powerful and overarching positioning word – audacity. The word ‘audacious’, says African Bank chief marketing officer Sbusiso Kumalo, finds its origin in the courageous and relentless approach of its key founders, including the famed entrepreneurs and business leaders Sam Motsuenyane and Richard Maponya.

‘Without audacity, there’d be no African Bank,’ says Kumalo. ‘Our call to our customers, both in the business and consumer side, is to be relentless and go after what they believe in, knowing they have a bank that supports and always believes in them. In this new and highly competitive banking paradigm, we believe that our confident and tenacious philosophy will set us apart from our competitors and establish us as a first-choice financial services institution.’

Kumalo adds that a brand repositioning is just one facet of change at African Bank as it amplifies and upweights its digital capability.

A second major development in African Bank’s new and audacious journey is the launch of a business banking division aimed at assisting and uplifting the underserviced SME sector. Zwelibanzi (Zweli) Manyathi is the new group executive of business banking. ‘A business banking division is a bold and logical next step for African Bank as it seeks to develop customer solutions beyond personal banking,’ says Manyathi. ‘Given the organisation’s increasingly strong brand presence in the market, and building on its rapid turnaround, I am confident we can make meaningful inroads into this highly competitive space and specifically offer small- and medium-sized enterprises a partnership that will enable them to grow both profitably and sustainably. My approach in developing this new division will be to listen attentively to constantly changing client needs and to offer solutions that address their unique challenges in both an uncertain and exciting time in South Africa’s history.’

The business banking division will offer solutions in the fast-growing digital realm, asset financing and mortgage origination.

African Bank CEO Kennedy Bungane says that ‘Zweli’s appointment is part of our robust growth strategy to become a broader financial platform in a sector that is rapidly changing. There is no question that expectations are changing in our industry and banks have no choice but to put strategies in place to help businesses prepare for a future where digitalisation is at the core. Our intention is to create a business banking division that meets the new needs of South African business, particularly in the small- and medium-sized area. These enterprises are the engine room of the country’s economy, but are often neglected when it comes to bespoke offerings that will enable their success and growth’.

From left: Lindiwe Miyambu (group executive: human capital); Kennedy Bungane (CEO); George Roussos (COO); Darryl Adriaanzen (group executive: operations), Gustav Raubenheimer (CFO), Sbusiso Kumalo (chief marketing officer), Unathi Mtya (CIO), Vere Millican (group executive: credit), Sibongiseni Ngundze (group executive: sales and distribution), Piet Swanepoel (group chief risk officer)

In the new pandemic-influenced business environment, organisations can no longer pay lip service to social responsibility and caring for the environment. This philosophy is deeply rooted in African Bank’s DNA. Brands that do not pay attention to the communities in which they operate, nor acknowledge the growing impact of climate change on lives and the economy, are destined to fail.

A recent Harris poll suggests that more 80% of millennials simply don’t trust the companies with which they do business, with Generation Z scoring even lower. Addressing this cynicism, African Bank believes corporate social responsibility is not about big, grand gestures but rather meaningful actions within communities. Financial literacy is a key driver for the bank in this respect. While this approach is outwardly focused, African Bank is also a strong believer that investment in social good has a halo impact within the organisation, aiding productivity and creativity, and building sustainable employee trust.

Climate change in 2022 has been listed as a key risk factor by the Institute of Risk Management, and African Bank believes that incorporating this into overall strategic thinking is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Environmental risk is a subset of credit, legal and reputational risk. Credit risk can arise where banks lend to customers whose businesses are adversely affected by disaster or a change to environmental regulation. Banks are also at risk if they themselves don’t comply with relevant environmental legislation. Reputational risk may arise if they are associated with projects that are viewed as socially or environmentally damaging.

With this in mind, and against the backdrop of the new world of financial services, African Bank remains committed to the ethos of its founding charter – banking for the people, by the people, and serving the people.

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