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FNB intros in-app SME business coach

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FNB Business CEO, Mike Vacy-Lyle.
FNB Business CEO, Mike Vacy-Lyle.

First National Bank (FNB) today unveiled product offerings aimed at helping small medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) run their business, including a free app-based educational programme, Fundaba.

Delivered via the FNB app, Fundaba features educational information and content in the form of video, podcast, articles, templates and tools to learn about entrepreneurship and running a business.

In addition, the audio and video content will be delivered in five of the 11 official languages, namely English, Afrikaans, isi-Zulu, isi-Xhosa and Sesotho.

Faye Mfikwe, chief marketing officer at FNB, said the solutions and offerings are in part an effort to make a difference in the country’s SME market.  

“In this journey of trying to be a trusted money-manager and partner, we aim to provide solutions that are innovative, contextual and of shared value.

“We all understand the undisputed challenges we face as country, in terms of unemployment, crime and education, and there as certainly a role that we play in terms of changing that narrative as corporates within South Africa.”

Mfikwe pointed out that growth in the economy and economic activity is going to come from the start-up and SME market.

However, one of the greatest gaps the bank came to recognise is access to knowledge. This, she noted, is knowledge in terms of how to package a business and what the business and product is about.

To address this knowledge gap, FNB has come up with Fundaba, according to Jesse Weinberg, head of the SME Customer Segment at FNB.

“Through our research and first-hand engagements with SMEs, we discovered that there is a knowledge gap amongst many existing and aspiring entrepreneurs when it comes to starting, running and growing a business. We feel we have a role to play to help close this gap, and at the same time help catalyse a country-wide dialogue of increasing entrepreneurship skills and knowledge sharing.”

Explaining the thinking behind the name, Weinberg said Fundaba was created through the combination of the South African words “fundi” (colloquially means expert) and “indaba” (discussion).

With Fundaba, FNB is providing an educational programme that consists of 12 modules across four lifecycle stages of a business (incubate, start, run and grow). It also follows a South African entrepreneur’s journey as he builds his first business – “Lebo’s Bakery”.

“As a leading business bank in South Africa, a core part of our strategy is to help develop SMEs by supporting entrepreneurs through their journey, and a key part of this journey is entrepreneurship knowledge and skills which we believe can help on a large-scale using our digital infrastructure,” Weinberg noted.

At the same event, the bank also introduced First Business Zero, a digital platform business bank account. It will be offered from 1 November 2019.

According to the bank, this offering is designed specifically for sole proprietor businesses with an annual turnover up to R5 million and can be opened on the FNB app.

The key features of the First Business Zero include no monthly account fee, unlimited free point-of-sale card swipes, inter-operable QR code for accepting payments, linked saving pocket to ring-fence savings and earn interest, and an FNB Connect SIM card that includes free data, minutes and SMSs (up to 100mb data, 30 voice minutes, 30 SMSs).

Furthermore, businesses will get free access to FNB Business’ suite of free value-added services, including instant accounting software, invoicing, cash flow and payroll.

FNB’s Fundaba is now available on the FNB app.
FNB’s Fundaba is now available on the FNB app.

Remaining relevant

FNB Business CEO, Mike Vacy-Lyle, said to remain relevant to customers, the bank is opening many branches right next door to where their competitors are closing. “We’ve opened seven new branches in the month-or-so and we plan to open more.

“We want to put our business close to where our customers are,” added Vacy-Lyle.

His comments echo those expressed by CEO Jacques Celliers last month, saying there won’t be any closures at FNB.

FNB’s competitor, Standard Bank, faced backlash after it closed 104 branches countrywide within a short space of time. To date, one in every five Standard Bank branches has been closed down.

Commenting on the emergence of digital banks such as TymeBank, Bank Zero and Discovery Bank in the market, Vacy-Lyle said his bank welcomes the competition.

“Competition will make banking move forward. I think it is fantastic and the consumer will first of all be better off.

“As a bank, we see ourselves as a fintech. Banks have a duty to digitise and be fintechs, and if they aren’t responding to that – they will be losers. A digital bank is where we are going.

“We also understand that we need to service all of our customers through multi-channels. So, branches remain. We don’t see a branch strategy being inconsistent with a digital strategy.”

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