Absa plans to become a fully digital financial services provider, updating existing systems and developing new technologies that it hopes will transform the way South Africans bank, and set it apart from its competitors.

Absa has committed to actively investing in IT infrastructure and expansion. It has made substantial improvements also having launched its app last year available to both individual and business customers, and being the first bank in the country to trial near field communication payments that let users put cash on their phone to spend in-store.

Arrie Rautenbach, head of retail banking at Absa, says the company is now in the final phase of refining its operating model with the promise of a radically digitised customer experience.

“Over the last few months we have optimised our branch processes to move towards a paperless environment that will save our customers and our colleagues time and make their lives easier,” he says.

“Consumers increasingly demand an end-to-end experience and greater consistency when accessing their bank accounts remotely via their mobile, an ATM, their PC or even their iPad,” Rautenbach adds.

“New generation customers like to manage their banking portfolio, functions and fulfilment of banking requests themselves, and Absa’s digital strategy will make it one of the most digitally enabled banks in the country.”

He says that the first embodiment of the bank’s digital transformation is the pilot of an instant account opening process, which allows branch consultants to open a cheque account for customers in under a few minutes directly from a tablet device.
Absa Online has enabled its customers to perform much more than simple banking transactions, he adds.

“Customers can apply for various products including personal loans, online insurance and savings accounts in a quick and simple process which give them immediate feedback.”

Absa Online also allows customers to manage their ATM and Card daily limits, register themselves for internet banking and set their transaction limits without needing to visit a branch and it is available at no cost to all transactional customers.

The digitisation extends to Absa’s ATM network, which is one of the most extensive in the country. Personal and business customers can make cash deposits on into a business account on any cash-accepting ATM.

“On the journey to radical digitisation it is important to remember our customers who prefer traditional banking channels and provide them with 24/7 convenience, too,” says Rautenbach.

“80% of customers in a branch are non-Absa customers looking to make deposits into Absa account or pay bills. The new cash-accepting ATM devices make this task easier for Absa and non-Absa customers alike and allow branch staff to focus on providing financial solutions to customers in-branch.”

Targeting entrepreneurs and business customers, Absa recently launched a device that plugs into the headphone jack of a mobile phone and allows merchants to swipe cards (including chip cards) and take payments remotely.
Called the Payment Pebble, the device has recently become commercially available and is the most affordable point of sale solution in South Africa. The bank says entrepreneurs who have utilised the Payment Pebble have seen a spike in sales by being able to accept card payments remotely.

“Everything significant we are working on is part of the move to offer customers a digital banking experience from start to finish,” Rautenbach says. “The move ensures customer’s banking needs are met in real time and means our clients prosper with value-added services to conduct the transaction of their choice through the channel of their choice – any time, any place, any device.”