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IM comes to SA banking

Standard Bank has launched a new Relationship Banking Instant Messaging service in conjunction with WeChat.

Sibongiseni Ngundze, Head of Retail Banking says the hassle of having only limited contact with your bank, through physically going into branch and standing in queues, or calling call centres and sending emails is now truly in the past.

“Traditional methods of communication have their disadvantages, which can inconvenience time-strapped customers. These days most relationships are conducted via instant messaging, so why not your banking relationships? The goal of providing service on WeChat is not only to make banking easier, but also to provide an unmatched level of personal service that enables us to support our customers in all banking circumstances, anytime, anywhere.”

Instant messaging volumes around the world have already surpassed SMS by some distance and are continuing to grow.  Within a few years it is believed instant messaging will surpass many of today’s key communication mediums. “We plan to be ahead of the competition,” says Mr Ngundze.

It can take, on average, one day for an email to be returned, 15 minutes for your call to be handled efficiently, and 1.5 hours for a branch visit.

“Things move faster than that these days and relationships are increasingly moving into the digital world. As a bank that is in tune with the trends and demands of our clients, we have therefore moved quickly to make these solutions available,” says Mr Ngundze.

He says the new service is “like adding your personal banker to your messaging ‘friend list’ and having them available to you 24/7/365, just like many of your existing personal relationships”.

It is a market worth taking seriously. Research shows there are over one hundred million people sending instant messages worldwide, while there are 5 million WeChat users in South Africa.

Standard Bank has introduced a range of digital and social media-based products and services already, helping to integrate banking into customers’ lifestyles and making their use of banking services as personalised, intuitive and ‘connected’ as any of their other device or online-enabled activities. “The latest offering simply adds another level of convenience and ease in customer’s day-to-day dealings with us, and puts them in charge of the way their banking is conducted,” says Mr Ngundze.

Prestige and Private customers need simply phone or email their bankers, or speak to their bankers in-branch and provide their WeChat ID before being taken through a verification process, after which they will be registered on the network and then simply need to log in to WeChat and search ‘Standard Bank’ under ‘Official Accounts’ to have access to chat to the team of virtual bankers anytime, anywhere, with the added benefit of 3GB of free WiFi, valid for three months, through AlwaysOn in AlwaysOn zones.

“As the first South African financial service provider to offer WeChat as a communication channel of instant messaging to our customers, with its inbuilt customer relationship management capabilities and real time response , we are confident that this latest offering will further move our customers forward. And we won’t stop here – we will continue to develop products for our customers to suit their needs in lock step with technological advances,” says Mr Ngundze.

“Partnering with a household name like Standard Bank will allow us to demonstrate to their large Prestige and Private customer base, the benefits of using WeChat,” says Brett Loubser, Head of WeChat Africa. “In this instance, WeChat allows Standard Bank customers to speak to a real person rather than receiving automated responses. Having access to your own banker 24/7 is a first and another way that WeChat is bringing the online and offline worlds together. We look forward to offering more of WeChat’s unique features on Standard Bank’s official account in the future.”

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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