MORE customers opened bank accounts this year, as most of the country’s banks saw increased customers.
Standard Bank South Africa announced on Friday that it now has more than 10 million customers who now bank with it in South Africa, with a million customers having joined this year alone.
It said that customers were signing on to Standard Bank services, taking advantage of access to digital services and offerings.
Standard Bank has ensured that it has rapidly transformed its digital offerings and platforms. Unique customers logging onto the app increased by 35 percent in the past year. Engagement with the platform has also increased, with time spent on the app increasing by 70 percent.
Standard Bank head of consumer and high net-worth clients in South Africa Kabelo Makeke said that they have worked hard to transform their business and ensure that their customers are at the centre of everything that we do.
“We strive to understand our clients as deeply and empathetically as we can. We use our extensive employee skills and digital capabilities to help meet their needs and enable them to achieve their goals. Branches have been streamlined and de-cashed, and we have worked hard to bring our services to our clients where they live and work.
“Relevant offerings, excellence in service and digital capabilities will continue to drive customer loyalty and customer migration to Standard Bank,” Makeke said.
Standard Bank said it has the largest network of Instant Money partners in the country. Customers can send and receive funds through a network of more than 50 000 partners, making use of the bank’s ATM network and retail partners like Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Pep stores. In 2021 just under 7 million Instant Money recipients made use of the service.
In line with the drive to transform customer experience and value, Standard Bank also scrapped fees associated with customer transactions done at another bank ATMs. Standard Bank customers pay no extra fees when withdrawing funds at non-Standard Bank ATMs.
The bank said that digital demand of customers can clearly be seen in the growth of digital transactions with more Standard Bank customers doing their banking online. Digital transactions are said to have increased by 22 percent in the year, while transactions on the app have increased by 38 percent, highlighting the immediacy and need for efficiency that customers demand in these digital times.
In September, FNB also reported a total customer growth of 5 percent to 10.5 million (South Africa 8.7 million and the rest of Africa 1.8 million). Customers with limited transactional needs also continued to use eWallet, as a store of value with over 7 million active wallets of which 5.6 million were non-FNB customers.
The bank said that its ongoing investment in its integrated financial services platform and digital interfaces continued to pay-off, recording an impressive 1.48 billion digital logins for the year.
Also in September, Bloomberg reported that with the pandemic forcing more transactions online, Capitec gained an annual increase of over 14 percent in its retail customer base to approach 17 million by the end of August. Digital clients were said to accounted for most of the gain.
2025 strategy poised for growth, underpinned by strong balance sheet
Last month, the African Bank Group which reported R534 million in profit for the year ended at the end September, said during the year under review, the board signed off on a new 2025 strategy for the group, so that the business remained a sustainable and investible market proposition.
The heart of the strategy articulated a two-pronged approach which was to expand the core growth initiatives such as providing a digital offering to small, medium and micro enterprises, as well as growing its customer base and diversifying the product offering while strengthening digital interventions and capabilities.
According to an analysis by the Oxford Business Group, given South Africa’s history and economy, financial inclusion was a serious issue for the country.
South Africa Reserve Bank (Sarb) head of bank supervision and registrar of banks at the the country’s central bank René van Wyk said at the time, while there was still plenty of work to do, in part due to some initiatives that did not quite pan out, but at the same time the percentage of unbanked individuals had dropped, and regulators would rightfully point out that while the country does have a problem, it is relatively small when compared with other economies in the region.
An estimated 23.5 percent of the people in the country were out of the system, while R12 billion in cash was believed to be held outside of banks. While the country is in some ways very advanced, parts of society remain severely challenged economically. Close to 35 percent of the population is unemployed.
The banking sector itself was said to be somewhat structurally unsuited to push into the poorer and more remote corners of the country. It was described as highly concentrated and conservative with regulations that focus on soundness and stability, all of which can make it difficult to commit resources to collecting smaller deposits and making smaller loans.
The World Bank has suggested that a tiered system of licensing be introduced, whereby specialised institutions are specifically designed for the lower strata of the market. Similar programmes are currently in place elsewhere in Africa, such as Ghana, where licensed rural banks provide retail loans, often, though not always to lesser-banked markets.
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