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New imperatives for SA banks

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A white paper from FNB and the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) – “Digital Disruption and the SA Banking Industry” – says local banks need to fully digitise and disrupt, or risk being left behind.
The white paper says that, in an era of rapid emergence of new technologies coupled with innovative business models, customer’s preferences are deeply interlocked with the use of new digital innovations. The banking industry is perhaps at the start of what can be described as a digital disruptive tornado and this fascinating time presents various opportunities for institutions in South Africa. The paper recommends strategic imperatives to ensure that banks are prepared for this wave of disruption.
Banks are under the pressure to fully digitise and disrupt – or be disrupted and left behind. “The trend of disruption is on the increase, with big and small companies trying to innovate and disrupt to stay ahead. Disrupting innovation is nothing new, but we find that smaller fintech companies are disrupting more. This puts huge pressure on industries to come up with solutions that will contribute to the economy,” explains Peter Alkema, FNB Business CIO.
Digitisation and disruption are the early-stage hallmarks of banking firms that have rewritten the rules and which are disrupting their industries. Creating an enabling innovative culture with high-tech solutions should be the aim of all companies in the future. “Banks should be more agile and anticipate ways to improve customers lives through the use of innovative technologies,” says Alkema.
According to the white paper, Blockchain is probably one of the most impactful breakthrough disruptions in recent years. Blockchain technology will become a new and necessary norm just like the Internet and will completely change the way we store and exchange value using digital currencies like Bitcoin. Bitcoin is already accepted at 30 000 online websites through PayFast, one of South Africa’s payment providers that also enable money to be sent from other countries to an account holder in South Africa.
The research further states that, younger customers in most countries continue to make use of mobile services more frequently for their banking transactions than any other form of banking. Most banks are addressing their customers mobile access requirements and demands for frictionless processes through apps with user-focused design.
Customers have become increasingly savvy and look for efficient and simple access to banking services. Customer expectations are being driven by exponential growth models that are disrupting industries from accommodation to transport; micro-service start-ups are using technology to challenge the asset-heavy incumbents.
The rise of Fintech industry globally has fuelled a renewed focus on innovative and intuitive software that offers frictionless and digitised processes. “The SA banking industry already fosters world class innovation in many of its products and services. The strategic importance of driving innovation cannot be understated. It influences change, addresses customer and market needs and keeps us going,” says Alkema.
In South Africa, we can already see a wave of change with the various partnerships, incubators and funding models. “Looking ahead, we need to ensure that we continue looking at new and innovative ways of approaching banking. Ongoing partnerships with accelerator programmes will ensure that new talent and skills is ingrained in the industry. This is needed to ensure that the innovation momentum doesn’t die down,” says Alkema.