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Nedbank to reskill employees as tech disrupts jobs

Read time 3min 30sec

Big four bank Nedbank is moving to redeploy employees impacted by digitisation, saying job losses through retrenchment will be the last resort.

This as labour unions fight local banks over widespread job losses in the financial services sector mostly because of the introduction of technology.

“Nedbank’s digital and innovation strategy is designed to respond to changing client behaviour and grow our business – not reduce it,” Nedbank tells ITWeb in an e-mail.

“What we commit to, as always, is to ensure that wherever possible, we minimise the impact of the changing nature of our business on our staff and provide training to ensure staff skills remain relevant. Unfortunately, we cannot commit to not changing the nature of our business as the world around us changes.”

The bank says it is mindful of the difficulties being experienced across all facets of the South African economy and that speculation surrounding the impact on staff numbers from any acceleration in its digital and innovation strategy causes apprehension.

However, it notes, the future is very hard for anyone to predict with any degree of precision.

“In this regard, we should be reminded that when the ATM was introduced 40 years ago, there were fears that it would make tellers redundant. Today, we have hundreds more tellers and thousands more ATMs as well as many staff working in ancillary services around the ATM ecosystem.”

Nedbank says branches are very important to the bank as they remain its most important touch points with clients.

Standard Bank recently 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.

In March, Absa Group announced it was restructuring its South African retail and business banking unit within months, which would affect 870 jobs.

Nedbank in August said it had been in consultations with the unions, noting fewer of its people would be affected.

Capitec last month announced it has converted some of its branches by removing cashiers and replacing them with self-service technology.

Meanwhile, First National Bank CEO Jacques Celliers recently told ITWeb there will be no branch closures at the big four bank.

The job losses in the banks caused finance union, the South African Society of Bank Officials, to threaten a massive strike that was set to cripple the local banking sector last month before the industrial action was called off.

“At Nedbank, we always seek to ensure ongoing structural changes to improve client service and create a future-fit organisation that responds to changing client behaviour are done in such a way that job losses through retrenchment are only as a last resort,” says the bank.

“This is demonstrated by the low numbers of retrenched staff in recent years – Nedbank works hard to ensure that as many of the impacted employees as possible are trained and redeployed within the bank as we have a natural staff turnover rate of around 10% and an overall staff headcount of around 30 000.

“In addition, we have partnerships with companies outside Nedbank who are willing to employ staff we are unable to deploy internally, and we invest just under half a billion rand per annum on staff training to help ensure the skills of our people remain relevant in a fast-changing world.”

Nedbank notes that it recognises that to create great client experiences and achieve its aspirations to be “digital first and first in digital”, its digital transformation journey must be both a people and technology journey, where the one will not succeed without the other.

“We must never forget that technology is driven by people, and that transformation is really a technology and people journey at the same time.”

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