One of the largest and most complex separations in the banking sector began in March 2016 when Absa Group Limited began its separation journey from Barclays PLC. What then ensued is a massive transformation that birthed a new purpose, a new brand, and a new strategy for the company. Absa Group Limited is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and is one of Africa’s largest diversified financial services groups, with a presence in major markets across the continent and around 40,000 employees. Clearly, the move that had transpired just three years ago has allowed Absa to become a self-sufficient bank of the future, enabling it to own and control its systems, processes and infrastructure across the continent to best serve the needs of its customers.
For these reasons and scores of others, it comes as no surprise that Absa Regional Operations, Absa Group Limited was adjudged Winner, Best Retail Bank – Africa at the recent Global Retail Banking Innovation Awards 2020 (GRB Awards) by The Digital Banker. Known as the world’s leading and most definitive Retail Banking awards program, it recognises cutting-edge banks that blend the best technology with a service-oriented mindset to raise the bar in consumer banking. Judging this year’s best of the best in retail banking are trusted experts from companies such as KPMG Digital Village, Imaginarium Advisors, EY and Forrester.
“Digital has been an impetus to a wave of innovations, both in front-end and back-end, which has allowed Absa and its regional operations to flourish as a leading and digital-first African financial services group. Inspired by the continent and the people it serves, they deliver customer experiences that are seamless, convenient and safe to use – and for that, they truly deserve to win this award,” said Nirav Patel, Managing Director at The Digital Banker during the awards ceremony.
‘Africanacity’: The distinctly African ability to always find a way to get things done
The Absa Regional Operations (ARO) is known to overcome every challenge with authenticity, ingenuity, positivity and creativity. They call it ‘Africanacity’, and they embrace it fully well.
One of the most notable examples of this happened during the COVID-19 pandemic when ARO reached out across all its territories in Africa to assist customers and communities with solutions to best navigate the economic impact of the health crisis. In addition, the bank also contributes extensively to local social relief efforts.
Just recently, the Bank’s Kenyan subsidiary also committed to plant 10 million trees in various parts of Kenya to boost the forest cover to 10 per cent. Currently, the country’s tree cover is believed to be at 7.2 per cent. This program aims to assist the Kenyan government in combating the effects of climate change and unemployment.
For Absa, creating opportunities for its customers to make their possibilities come alive is a mission always supported by action. By creating seamless experiences that engage and delight, the team has proven its steadfast commitment to living up to its ideals.
“Absa Regional Operations (ARO) is known to overcome every challenge with authenticity, ingenuity, positivity and creativity. They call it ‘Africanacity’, and they embrace it fully well.”
ARO: Digital to the core
In 2019, the Retail and Business Banking teams set out a new strategy to pursue further growth. ‘Digital’ was at its core and this has extended not only to new products and services but in areas such as back-office operations and banking administration.
Perhaps unknown to many, a huge number of people across Africa cannot be reached or serviced by traditional brick and mortar banking channels. Seeing the pressing need of the market and the value it can offer, ARO collaborated with innovative partners such as technology platform provider, JUMO, and a mobile network operator, MTN, to provide loans via mobile in Zambia and Ghana, to the largely unserved and underserved customers. Through these products, many customers who would have had no access to finance because of thin credit files and were unable to save due to onerous onboarding requirements, can now formally borrow money. This has greatly contributed to driving financial inclusion across Africa.
To this day, ARO’s commitment to delivering seamless and innovative solutions to all its customers across Africa never stops. Across its African markets, ARO has about two million customers with varying needs and preferences. Given the size of its customer base, the challenge is to aggregate and analyse data to facilitate swift and accurate decision-making. To this, ARO has turned to its C360 data analytics platform, which helps Absa anticipate the changing needs of its customers through predictive modelling and multifaceted data science approaches.
Currently, the Bank has over 20 systems in 10 African markets with no integration between them, while disparate reporting mechanisms and intensive manual reporting processes further complicate any measurement or evaluation. As a result, relationship managers, who are key to serving customer journey and experiences, are unable to execute real-time delivery of products or service offerings as they were reliant on retrospective customer insights.
The design and subsequent deployment of the web-based C360 data analytics platform have enabled the Absa to convert data into customer insight as part of its customer-centric approach. The deployment of the KAI Conversational AI Platform enabled Absa customers to engage with the bank, with human-like conversations over digital channels including such public web and WhatsApp.
This impressive feat of achievement has yielded a 30% year-on-year growth for digitally active customers while total digital volumes including mobile banking, internet banking and Hello Money increased to 41%.
In a post-COVID-19 world, Absa is well-positioned to reach greater heights. Through its digital products that are designed to meet the needs of its existing customer base, and its ability to provide an access point for a large number of unbanked customers in Africa, there is no limit to what Absa can accomplish in years to come.