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Innovation, digital investments to augment FNB’s growth plans

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FNB CEO Jacques Celliers.
FNB CEO Jacques Celliers.

First National Bank (FNB) is buttressing its growth focus, with plans to scale up its digitalisation programmes, as the big-four bank seeks to entrench itself as a customer-centric financial services provider.

The bank says while digital investments are an “ongoing thing”, it has planned huge expenditure to modernise its banking services, including its operations across Africa.

FNB, which recorded over one billion logins on its platforms during the financial year ended June, as more customers opted for digital transactions, says it will expedite its digital projects to cater for the growing need.

In an interview with ITWeb last week, CEO Jacques Celliers said: “Digital investment is an ongoing thing; it’s not something that you can do in one year. Effectively, we have a number of investments on the go.

“We are also rolling out a new transactional banking platform to the rest of Africa. So, overall, it is a massive investment.”

He added the bank has also been investing in “capabilities” as well as maintaining its older infrastructure, so that it runs its “full lifecycle” without disrupting operations.

“One of the capabilities we launched is for customers to manage compliance on the platform, their profile and business profile. This is all traditional stuff that frustrated customers; like know-your-client, you have your surname spelt wrong, address wrong, but you can now correct that on the platform. Profile management capability has been an unbelievable success for the year.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions, the FNB team worked on successful projects that positioned the bank well in the market, he noted.

“Our technology team has been unbelievable; we have done more projects in the last 18 months than the pre-COVID-19 period. Work from home, it’s something that settled in nicely with the team, especially with the late night infrastructure maintenance, as we have to wait for quiet time on our infrastructure to do all our maintenance.”

In the period, Celliers said, FNB had to focus on innovating solutions that addressed customer needs.

“What we have found over the year is that you can’t control innovation but you can steer it. What we have done is try to steer our innovative minds to solve the challenges of the time and it was a great year to do that. We were able to satisfy lots of our operational demands through innovating our platforms, our data and our interfaces, to make it easy for customers.

“From an innovation perspective, our teams love all opportunities that relate to integrated financial services and integrated financial experiences.”

Celliers said FNB will continue on the innovation path in line with global trends.

“Right around the world, financial services are trying to modernise. We see lots of opportunities to build better ways of operating, better ways of producing products, more customer-centricity. We have been at this longer than others.

“In a nutshell, right around the world, financial services had to move from the old way of doing financial services, to a new way and I think we are on a good trajectory to get that new way done.”

According Celliers, FNB’s ongoing digital investments are already paying off, as evidenced by the bank’s performance in the last financial year.

In the year, FNB App volumes surged 26%, across Africa. In countries the bank has presence, digital application penetration increased from 16.5% to 29.3%.

Additionally, FNB’s eWallet services surged, with seven million active wallets, of which 5.6 million were non-FNB customers.

The bank’s overall performance was solid during the year, which helped FNB report an increase of 32% in normalised profit before tax and deliver a return on equity of 33.3%.

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