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How digital revolution will change financial services

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People have different views on the impact of technology, with some welcoming it and some fearing it. Despite this, it has made our live easier and CHRISTOPH NIEUWOUDT, CEO: FNB Consumer Segment explains the impact it will have on the financial industry.

People have strong views on the impact of digital technology on their lives, from the excitement of getting a new gadget to the satisfaction of doing in minutes what used to require a trip or a long phone call. Contrary perspectives include the fear of being left behind or even what technology will do to their employment prospects over time.

One thing we can all agree on is that digital progress is inevitable. The implications of the use of technology by society are immensely profound, with terms such as “The Second Machine Age” or the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” being used to give this evolution a name.

Let’s takes a closer look at the impact of digital transformation on consumers and the broader financial services industry:

Digital revolution is already at an advanced stage

In 2016 FNB customers had over 10 billion interactions with the bank, of which only 120 million (just over 1%) was on a face-to-face basis. Roughly 8.5 billion (85%) was purely on digital channels and the rest via point-of-sale (card swipes or online purchases) and ATM transactions.

The number of FNB customer interactions has tripled since 2010, growing at more than 20% per annum every year, based on the growth in digital channels. Meanwhile at branches, customers are making significant use of in-branch digital zones.

The reasons for the growth and migration of volumes to digital are obvious as almost every customer knows they can do basically any payment transaction, account or card service function and get most products, including loans, overdrafts, credit card upgrades, savings products and insurance on a 24/7/365 basis via the FNB app, online or cellphone banking. Customers can also buy airtime, pre-pay electricity, play lotto, trade stocks, get a homeloan approved, order a car licence renewal, buy forex, send money to any cellphone in SA, buy stuff via eBucks and the list goes on.

What does this mean for branches and do we still need them?

Branches and branch personnel are no less critical than before, but their role has changed from performing transactions to re-focussing on sales and advising customers on how to bank. In spite of the powerful digital technology, today the bulk of banking consumers still want to talk to someone when opening a new account and even for most product categories.

Additionally, consumers often need help with the new technology, even just to get going and start using it. In my view this leads to much richer and meaningful client interactions. In most cases, branches can be much smaller, but with more room for digital zones and self-service devices such as ATMs and ADTs (deposit taking machines).

This journey is not unique to banking – virtually every sales or service business is or will be going through some elements of digital transformation.

The important effect of such changes is the opportunity to continuously upskill a workforce. At branch level, it’s important for consumers to interact with consultants who understand how the technology works. On this end, we now have e-Bankers who help customers get to grips with banking digitally

Broadly, banking is also seeing a large contingent of specialised roles – IT specialists, analysts, actuaries, engineers, who play a significant role in ‘re-inventing’ solutions all the time

Automating credit decision making and fraud prevention

Today, only a very small percentage of credit decisions are made by people – rather statistical models are used to make fully automated decisions instantly at low cost and with accuracy not achievable by a person. For consumers, this means your risk profile and behaviour determines your loans size and pricing. Importantly, technology has helped reduce fraud loss rates for card and digital transactions.

Move from product-centric to a customer-centric model

FNB has been through a major mind-shift to consistently put the customer at the centre of the universe like never before. Interactions through all channels need to be considerate of making the customer’s experience the best possible by providing a consistent experience across all products and services.

The future for financial services

Often, the question is which banks will “win” the race, or will Apple/Amazon/Facebook/Google or other ‘fintech’ players win?

There are two simple thoughts in this regard. Firstly, due to the massive (data analytical, channel & customer experience) advantages a customer centric approach offers, I believe an integrated player like FNB with a compelling offering across transactional, lending, save/invest, insurance (and in our case telco also) has a major competitive advantage over any player with a limited offering.

Secondly, financial services players that embrace technology and data analytical capabilities in a customer centric manner can and should be the beneficiary of the digital revolution. However, at the end of it all, it comes down to a philosophical decision around business strategy – rather than falling prey to fintech disruptors, banks can unlock the incredible power of innovation for their customers to fulfil the ever changing needs of bank customers.

Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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