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FNB ‘aggressively’ repositions for platform-based future

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 03 Feb 2020
FNB CEO Jacques Celliers.
FNB CEO Jacques Celliers.

Popularly regarded as one of the banks at the forefront of digital innovation, First National Bank (FNB) says it is now “deliberately” stepping up its game into a data-driven, platform-based future.

This is the word from CEO Jacques Celliers, who says this is part of a process to ensure each customer’s experience is individualised according to their financial needs.

“Our strategy is simple; we want to help our customers with contextual solutions through a trusted platform,” the CEO told ITWeb.

“The journey sees us integrate our rich and ever-expanding ecosystems and value propositions in transacting, lending, investing and insuring into our enterprise digital platform,” he says. “This will increasingly allow customers across retail and commercial segments to experience various helpful financial solutions, each tailored to their specific individual contexts.”

He believes this “simple strategy” will also give FNB the competitive-edge over digital entrants currently making inroads in SA's banking space.

In the past year, the local retail banking space saw financial service providers such as TymeBank and Discovery Bank disrupt the traditional banking model with branchless and digital-only offerings.

According to Celliers, FNB’s approach is to always respect competition because the industry will always go through phases of it.

However, FNB remains resolute in its commitment to build a trusted platform for customers, he states.

“In the same way Spotify is able to individualise recommended playlists for users of their platform, we need to help our retail and commercial customers navigate their financial contexts with appropriate financial solutions to support them in dealing with their respective challenges and opportunities.

“Overall, most of the reconfiguration we’ve seen amongst our competitors is something we’ve already done in our business – whether you’re looking at rewards or the digitisation of services. That said, competition is great for our sector because it removes any possibility of complacency.”

Brick-and-mortar advocate

While competitors announced branch closures, FNB stated the brick-and-mortar bank branch is still very much part of its future.

Celliers says his bank has been on a journey to modernise points-of-presence infrastructure, which includes campuses, branches, suites and ATMs, all the way to the bank’s speed-point terminals.

“The manner in which we are responding to the step-change in our customers’ needs is to enhance our physical environments in such a way that customers experience our cool digital platforms not only when they are on their own but also when they visit us, which is when they need human interaction and support.

“Our branch personnel, for instance, continue to play an important role in offering adequate product advice to customers and they are enabled through our powerful interfaces to increasingly use technology to understand each customer’s context, and to ultimately become money managers. In the same way Uber drivers are enabled through their platform to wow their customers, so too our frontline teams are able to bring exponential helpfulness to life.”

In the same breath, Celliers points out the bank has made significant improvements in managing queues in branches.

This, he says, is enabled by allowing customers to perform most banking functions across a broad range of interfaces and alternative payment options.

“ATM queues are typically influenced by customers’ cash needs, especially around month-end, and to a great extent, we are able to solve cash needs by enabling customers to use solutions such as Cash@till, eWallet, and cash-accepting ATMs, to make cash deposits or withdrawals.”

Digital domination

The CEO reveals the FNB app is still a popular digital solution that resonates with customers.

“As at June 2019, we were in the region of three million active users on our app and we believe richer functionality will enable us to attract more eyeballs and interactions.

“Similarly, we continue to see progress around the use of digital capabilities in branch, which is partly due to customers being able to use our multi-purpose banking interfaces and others connecting to our free branch WiFi to quickly and efficiently perform transactions.”

Commenting on the future of the local bank scene, Celliers says FNB remains energised by the buzz in the sector without being oblivious to the economic pressures on customers, especially those in vulnerable positions.

“Despite the tough operating environment, our customers can look forward to a decade of industry-leading solutions from us as we embark on a platform future,” he concludes.