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Capitec dives into technology

The fast-growing bank is investing in data and tech specialists to grow its product range, writes BONGANI SITHOLE

Capitec is on a recruitment drive to hire 500 data people and technologists to help position itself as one of the most innovative banks in South Africa.

The bank told Gadget at a recent event at its head office in Stellenbosch that it wants to grow its skills in these areas in order to grow its product set.

“We’ve seen a growing number of products, and there’s a lot of innovation that’s happening within the bank,” said chief information officer Wim De Bruyn. “We are also getting into new businesses such as Business Banking, and expanding on insurance products.

“We want to grow our technology and our data skills base. We are on an active recruitment drive this year, for instance, to hire 500 data people and technologists”.

The bank also aims to offer learning platforms to customers, to help them develop digital skills. 

Chief technology officer Andrew Baker says: “We’re about to do some deals with learning platforms, noting that South Africa is very entrepreneurial, but some people didn’t get what they want out of the education system. Now it’s all on the internet. So at a very low cost, we’ve done one deal with A Cloud Guru, and we are doing a deal with Udemy (to bring low-cost education to customers).

“We want to keep people and want to attract people but part of your responsibility is actually to grow people. There are two things we have to give as an organisation, Buying the platforms is easy, they’re quite cheap. The thing I  like is giving our people the time to sit there in our time and create these little learning channels where people are encouraged to go and pick cloud or cyber courses, even if they’re doing something in compliance, for example. People aren’t pigeonholed into that role.”

The bank experienced an outage in early August that lasted for more than 24 hours. For a rapidly growing young bank in South Africa, this could have been disastrous to its public image. However, it turned out that, due to the bank’s transparency on the matter, and communication with customers, it had the opposite effect, said Graham Lee, group executive for retail banking.

“On Saturday 6 August, during the day after we came up, 5,000 new clients opened their accounts. On Monday it was 10,000 new clients opening accounts with Capitec.”

It helps that Capitec had already been making an effort to make payments frictionless, affordable and secure. Over 320,000 customers of the bank used its facial biometric scan, in effect a selfie, to open accounts, change their pins, or activate the app on a new phone. This is verified in real-time against the Department of Home Affairs database and makes banking more secure for customers while removing the need for branch visits and paperwork. 

This is part of the digitalisation of the bank, including payments.

Blessing Mgaga, a divisional executive for client experience delivery at Capitec, says: “There’s a significant shift towards real-time payments, payments to cellphone numbers or QR codes, payments from bank accounts to wallets, and requests to pay.. 

“Right now, the team is working on a rapid payments project via cloud-specific technology. This will be a new industry solution for immediate payments in South Africa as the latest payment innovation we’ve introduced.”

Capitec Bank recently launched several new features, including (as supplied by the bank):

  • Capitec Pay is a new functionality that disrupts online payments, enabling clients to approve online transactions by entering their cell/ ID numbers and authorising payments via the bank’s app. This means they never need to share their sensitive card or online banking details when shopping online, creating a safer, more seamless experience.  
  • Partnered with Samsung Pay: Clients can now add their debit or credit card to the Samsung Pay app to make swift, safe payments. In its first month of launching, Capitec was the bank with the highest transaction volumes on Samsung Pay. Interestingly, 72% of clients to adopt it so far have been men with the majority living in Gauteng between the ages of 21 to 30. The bank will be enabling Apple and Google Pay later this year.  
  • Launched Lotto on their banking app: Capitec clients can now purchase LOTTO, PowerBall and Daily LOTTO tickets via the bank’s app. Within two weeks of launch, the bank already owned a 20% market share: it’s now the second biggest lottery seller in the country. In July, the bank’s female clients spent R17 million on LOTTO tickets.
  • Pay Me is an easy way for clients to receive payments. Now people in previously underserved markets such as petrol attendants and informal vendors can easily request tips or payment for free with the money going safely into their account, preventing the risk of theft or payments into the wrong account.
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