apitec and FNB are tied for first place as South Africa’s Best Digital Bank in the Couminate InSites Consulting latest SITEisfaction report.

The report is an annual measure of customer satisfaction with digital banking services in South Africa, and rates each banking institution with a SITEisfaction score from -100 (worst possible experience) to +100 (best possible experience). This is measured for both internet banking via a web browser and smartphone app banking; the combined score from these two channels is the “digital banking” category.

The two banks tied in a first for the industry and the SITEisfaction report with a score of 79 each. They have both consistently been rated either first or second since the measure was introduced in 2012.

“The results show there is more than one way to win the battle for best digital experience,” says Henk Pretorius, managing partner of Columinate InSites Consulting.

“Looking at our tied winners this year, it’s evident that FNB can learn something about simplicity from Capitec, and Capitec can learn something about identifying, adopting, and rolling out the appropriate technologies for its customers from FNB.

“FNB’s focus on technology, and Capitec’s focus on simplicity has served both banks well, but it may be time to broaden that focus if they hope to remain competitive in the coming years, especially with the introduction of new, simple, tech-savvy banking brands.”

Giuseppe Virgillito, FNB Digital spokesperson, says: “Retaining the ranking as one of the Best Digital Banks in a highly competitive atmosphere affirms that our strategy to provide the best customer experience continues to gain momentum.

“We are proud to enable customers to manage their money through a trusted and integrated banking platform. This, we believe, is a significant contributor to improving money management among customers. We are consistently expanding functionality to provide a truly seamless experience whilst empowering customers with tools to safeguard their bank accounts.”

From an Internet Banking perspective – a banking service accessed through a computer’s web browser – FNB scored slightly higher in 2019, raising their SITEisfaction score from 75 in 2018, to 77 in 2019.

Capitec claimed larger gains, growing their Internet Banking satisfaction levels from 70 in 2018, to 77 in 2019.

The other evaluated banks enjoyed similar growth, with Nedbank growing from 60 in 2018 to 63 in 2019, and Standard Bank growing from 55 in 2018 to 59 in 2019 – Standard Bank’s growth could be attributed to the closing of their legacy Internet Banking platform and migration to an updated version. Absa has continued to grow consistently, moving from 48 in 2018, to 51 in 2019.

It is evident from the results in the Internet Banking Category the evaluated banks have remained mostly stable since 2018, however, the five-year trend data paints a different picture.

Capitec has made the largest gains in the last five years, increasing its SITEisfaction score by 15 points since 2015. Nedbank has enjoyed similar success, scoring 13 points higher since 2015. Absa has also noted a significant upward trend, scoring 12 points higher today than five years ago.

Surprisingly, FNB made the lowest gains, logging an overall improvement of two points over the last five years. Standard Bank suffered a seven-point decline over the last five years.

“Standard Bank will continue to place focus on our digitisation journey and we remain confident about our prospects to provide a superior digital banking experience going forward,” says Standard Bank’s digital banking and e-commerce head Theo Skosana. “Standard Bank invested significant effort in 2018 in ensuring an improved digital experience by moving to a single Internet Banking platform, optimising our digital banking sign-in process, and enhancing security protocols on our platforms.

“We also released a host of new features (including realtime clearance, debit order reversals, international payments, virtual cards, and online account origination) in line with customer demand and expectations.

“We understand the impact of system maintenance, outages and interruptions to our valued customers and our teams are placing dedicated focus on ensuring optimal platform stability, uptime and availability.

“More emphasis will also be placed on proactive communication with our clients through their channel of choice. Standard Bank will continue its focus on delivering a holistic digital banking proposition that will offer customers greater ease of use, higher levels of availability and consistent service excellence across all banking channels.”

The most popular features on the Internet Banking platforms are still traditional banking services, from paying beneficiaries to transferring money between accounts (both at 69% usage), including obtaining bank statements (57%) and viewing available balances (54%). Non-traditional usage of the platform includes purchasing airtime (48%), purchasing data bundles (40%), and purchasing prepaid electricity (34%).

The mobile banking category focuses exclusively on the smartphone applications the evaluated banks have on offer.

Capitec, the category winner, experienced a minor dip, moving from a SITEisfaction score of 84 in 2018 to 82 in 2019. Similarly, FNB moved from 84 in 2018, to 81 in 2019.

Nedbank shed a single point in the last year, moving from 69 in 2018, to 68 in 2019. Standard Bank suffered the greatest consumer backlash, its SITEisfaction score dropping from 74 in 2018, to 59 in 2019. Absa is the only bank that managed to gain some ground in the category, growing from 59 in 2018, to 62 in 2019.

“Our ambition is to become a scalable and digitally-led bank, offering mobile first solutions. We pride ourselves on safeguarding our customers and providing them with a digitally-led customer experience, in a secure environment. We always keep the big picture in mind and continually strive towards innovation to ensure that our customers have a good user experience at all touch points. The fact that Absa is the only bank whose mobile banking SITEisfaction score increased this year is a clear reflection that the customer-first, Retail and Business Bank, strategy is yielding benefits,” says Aupa Monyatsi, managing executive: virtual channels, retail and business bank at Absa.

With increased ease and accessibility, core banking features on a mobile platform have seen a marginal increase in feature usage, especially compared to traditional internet banking platforms: While making payments to a beneficiary (73%) and transferring funds between accounts (72%) are still the most popular functions, there is a marked increase in non-traditional services, with 69% of mobile banking app users purchasing airtime, 59% purchasing data bundles, and 47% of users purchasing prepaid electricity.

In 2018, Columinate InSite Consultingreported that fraud was at an all-time high, rising significantly from the 2017 data. Unfortunately, it’s a trend that’s yet to be curbed, with 69% of users reporting to have been targeted by fraudsters (up from 62% in 2018, and 46% in 2017), and One out of every Three users (33%) falling victim to fraud (up from 22% in 2018, and 19% in 2017).

2019 marks both the highest number of targeted users and highest number of victims since the SITEisfaction report’s inception in 2012.

The most prevalent fraud of 2019 was the “You are a winner!” pay-to-play scam, with more than two thirds of the South African Internet Banking population being aware of it, 36% reported being targeted by it, and 10% of users succumbing to it, up from 8% of victims in 2018.

The “You are a winner” pay-to-play scam involves alerting the targeted user that they are the alleged winner of a prize, but that they’d have to either pay to enter the competition or pay to redeem the prize. Phishing, SIM swapping, and the traditional 419 scams (among too many others) are still ever-present threats claiming victims in similar volumes as previous years, despite the rise in awareness of these frauds.

“Considering the online banking trends for the last eight years, it’s evident that our banks have all become increasingly sophisticated at delivering relevant products to the market. Unfortunately, cyber-criminals have kept apace, and use all possible angles to gain an advantage; it’s a trend that not showing any signs of slowing down, in fact, it’s escalating. This reemphasises the need for banks to arm their customers with the relevant information to combat these illicit operators, and for end-consumers to critically evaluate every piece of information they receive – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” concludes Pretorius.