Reimagining Banking in Africa

PUBLISHED: Mon, 08 Jul 2019 11:31:24 GMT
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Jaydeep Gupta, Regional Head of Retail Banking at Standard Chartered Bank

Over the past ten years banking has seen a wind of change shake up the industry. With the onset of technological advances across all corners of society, banking has not been immune to digital disruption. Penetration of mobile and internet access, changes in customer demands and the growth of fintech has meant we have seen more levers pulling at the industry than ever before. And this is a phenomenon not sitting in isolation, it is a global trend, and one very relevant to Africa.

The industry witnessed increasing numbers of bricks and mortar customers migrate towards digital and mobile banking, with no signs of this trend ending anytime soon. In fact, according to a recent report by Juniper Research, the number of global digital banking users will hit the 3 billion mark in 2021 – to put that in perspective, half of the world’s adult population will have digital access to financial services in the next two years[1].

We are now living in a mobile-led world, where customers are becoming increasingly accustomed to the ease and convenience of digital channels. 24/7 access, a personalised approach, and a unified, omnichannel experience has quickly become the norm, as internet penetration in Africa has reached 35.9%[2] and smartphone penetration at 33%[3].  We are witnessing that these services are no longer viewed as a benefit, but rather an expectation. Retail banks are responding by re-inventing their products and services to provide users with a memorable digital experience across every interaction and touch point.

Standard Chartered is using digital to make banking faster and simpler for clients and broadening the client segments we can serve across fast growing markets. We launched our first-ever digital retail bank in Côte d’Ivoire last year and more recently, we’ve rolled out the second phase of our digitally-led bank across Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya. Deploying technological solutions, we can now onboard clients in under 15 minutes and provide 70 of the most common service requests with just the tap of a finger. In addition, we are working hard to build eco system covering ‘Lifestyle’ interests of customers which includes various bill pay, wealth and everyday interest of our clients.  Being digital through the every eco system also allows us to serve clients who are used to doing everything on their mobile phones and expect banking to be delivered that way.

Of course, when adapting to a ‘digital’ world, it is crucial that banks find a way to retain the ‘human element’ of banking. While digital channels are more efficient, hold a lower error rate and decreased cost-to-serve ratio, finding the appropriate balance between traditional and digital services is key to providing an exceptional customer experience. According to research, 79% of consumers prefer the human interaction to complement digital channels[4].  Offering only digital services will not suffice in maintaining customer satisfaction overtime – there will always be a need for human interaction. Standard Chartered has begun fusing digital functions with human interaction to remain appealing to customers’ digitally connected lives.

Additionally, with a digital overhaul also comes a myriad of adjustments to a Bank’s operating model. For example, with the increase of online transactions, cybersecurity has taken center-stage. Banks now need to invest in technology platforms to ensure the security of their customers’ data and information. A recent survey by Deloitte revealed that financial institutions are now allocating as much as 20% of their annual budget towards cyber monitoring and operations. The same survey revealed that cyber defense was ranked as the most important business issue for organizations who function in the financial sector[5]

Digitisation and innovative technologies are creating unparalleled disruption in our industry. As technology shifts customer expectations and interactions, banks must respond by evolving to meet the challenges. In today’s digital world, we are guided by simplicity, personalisation, mobility and agility. With the rise of mobile and online banking in Africa, customers are migrating towards those platforms for a faster and simpler banking experience. To meet those rising needs, Banks must combine the trust of our customers with the convenience of technology to create a bank of the future in Africa.


[1] https://www.bbva.com/en/unstoppable-growth-digital-banking-3-billion-users-2021/

[2]https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm

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