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Open banking set to transform fintech

We are about to see far more inclusive ways of working between traditional banking incumbents and new digital players, writes GWENAËL TROTEL of Standard Bank



The way in which traditional banks and financial technology companies interact with one another is set to change dramatically with the advent of Open Banking. 

This concept, which has been formally mandated in the United Kingdom, promises to shake up the financial services industry by promoting more inclusive ways of working between traditional incumbents and digital players.

While banks around the world are already partnering with or acquiring fintech companies to realise their digital ambitions, Open Banking is likely to propel this collaboration to new heights. 

Open banking is a business model that allows for the digital exchange of data and financial services at scale between banks and certified third parties. This will radically transform traditional banking value chains.

Through this approach, banks will be able to better utilise the data they already own. With the help of the right fintech partners, this data management can be used to inform the development of products and services that possess a level of specification never seen before.  

This is likely to usher in an entirely new financial services ecosystem, where the role of the bank shifts markedly. The result will be the creation of new revenue streams, increased market reach, improved financial inclusion, accelerated digitalisation and cost reduction through automation.

Standard Bank is gearing up for this change across both retail and corporate markets, and is of the view that Open Banking is not a strategy in itself, but rather a critical enabler of our current strategy of digitalisation, customer centricity and integration.

By breaking down walls of the closed model in the financial services industry, customers can access their own banking data and use it to inform their selection of financial services offerings.

This means that banks will be challenged to develop more innovative solutions that are delivered with a high degree of customer centricity. This will be enabled by the exchange of data and financial services that Open Banking facilitates.

Through Open Banking, solutions can be built based on customer insights and tailored to suit a consumer’s behaviour. 

Access to transactional data, for example, is useful in assessing creditworthiness and could speed up the time it takes for a loan to be approved. In the same breath, it could alert to warning signs based on the holistic picture the data provides on an individual’s financial standing. A major benefit for consumers who are unaware of potential opportunities or threats to their financial wellness.  

By understanding more about how consumers spend and save, there is further room to develop purpose-built solutions that address specific pain points. This is expected to bring simplicity and convenience to a world that is often found to be full of complexities. 

Open Banking promises to create a banking ecosystem where the playing field becomes level. Instead of competing against one another, there is an immense opportunity for traditional incumbents and fintech entities to leverage off one another’s strengths.  

While fintech entities hold the technology skills and capabilities to bring these products to life, they aren’t necessarily able to scale the product across markets. This is where traditional banks will play a role. 

It is critical that we partner with fintech entities or start to think like them to remain agile and quick to market with new solutions. Our market intelligence and expansive customer base across multiple African regions gives us the ability to take these solutions to market at scale.

When mainstream financial institutions partner with fintech entities who develop innovative solutions that are more accessible and affordable for individuals, particularly the unbanked population, we will see greater levels of financial inclusion. 

While fintechs can provide these solutions on a one-to-one basis, an organisation like Standard Bank has the ability to take this solution to the masses.

We are already active in this regard and have partnered with or acquired fintech entities to bring digital solutions to the markets in which we operate with the aim of bringing more individuals into the financial system.

Standard Bank recently invested R61 million into Cape Town-based fintech company Nomanini, which has developed technology that connects informal merchants with distributors via an e-wallet. 

The platform is expected to be rolled out across 14 African countries by 2021 and will offer retailers short-term savings, credit and insurance products. As these traders are informal and mostly deal in cash, the solution will enable access to financial services for the first time and help to grow their entities.

Financial services organisations are highly regulated business across the globe due to the nature and sensitivity of the sector, and it remains in the best interest of customers, partners and regulators to find and shape the best possible approach to managing an open access framework. 

We have started investing in tech assets and are allocating resources to ensure that we drive a coherent Open Banking agenda across the group, with a focus on the safety of customer data and increased collaboration with fintechs, corporates, bigtechs and other third parties.

  • Gwenaël Trotel is  head of Payments Digitisation and Open Banking at Standard Bank Group


Hi-tech reinvents the massage

Virtual reality is invading the world of health and beauty – or is the other way round? ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers a new role for VR through the art of massage.



Sheer Bliss founder Nadine Hocter gives Bryan Turner a VR massage at the World Wide Worx offices

Imagine you are sitting at your office desk, stretched by deadlines and stressed by office politics. A minute later, you are sitting on a idyllic beach, watching the sunset, and someone is gently massaging your neck.

That’s probably a common fantasy, but now it is also a reality, thanks to the next big step in massage therapy. The ancient art is being transformed by virtual reality (VR), with massage clinics and therapists the world over discovering the transformative power of the technology.

In South Africa, the revolution is led by a company called Sheer Bliss, which works in the corporate space, mainly visiting company offices and call centres. The massage is quick – typically 6 minutes – but the combination of working the most stressed muscles and offering a brief escape to a beach paradise amplifies the experience.

Massage therapy goes back in history several thousand years, first as a sacred form of natural healing in India and later to pamper royals and the rich in ancient Egypt. These days, it is democratised, at least if you can afford it. But thanks to VR, it can now become a mass market experience. Sheer Bliss conducts an average of 27,000 massages a year, with teams in Johannesburg, Cape Town and KZN. Its mobile massage concept means it can also cater for conferences and large sporting events.

However, it’s not so much a case of VR saving the massage industry, as massage giving VR a boost, by providing a wonderful use case for its practical application.

“We needed to find something new to offer our customers,” says Nadine Hocter, founder of Sheer Bliss. “At the same time, we were looking at a way to future-proof the business. I was really lucky in that a group of MBA students at GIBS were given Sheer Bliss for their innovation project. 

“We spoke about various ways of making our original massage more immersive. VR was mentioned, but it was in a meeting with a client who wasn’t biting that we sold the idea. Without realising it at the time, our business moved into a class encompassing the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

Visit the next page to more about how Sheer Bliss became the first virtual reality massage therapy business in South Africa.

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Drones fight forest fires

The South African forest fire season began a month ago, and an estimated 20807 hectares of land were burnt in the Western Cape.



With such rampant and regular breakouts of forest fires, the quest to contain them before they cause widespread destruction, including property damage and loss of life, remains an issue of high importance for non-governmental organisations and the relevant government agencies. Equally important is the need to safeguard against the loss of the lives of firefighters during missions to contain these blazes.

As this continues being an issue, mainly because of the dense vegetation found in the Western Cape, coupled with the dry weather that is typical for this time of the year, the need to use unmanned aircraft to fight fires is ever increasing.

Drones are particularly crucial for forest fires that tend to get out of control quickly and that put both pilots and crew at risk. There’s only a small containment window between when the fire starts and when it gets out of control. Drones give firefighters a bird’s eye view of the terrain and helps them determine where the fire moves next so they can swiftly make decisions about where crews should go and who should be evacuated.

If you’re a firefighter responsible for forest fire response, mitigation and rescue, the benefits of drones are immense. We’ve detailed the main 4 benefits with supplemental stories below.

1. Drones Gather Situational Awareness in a Short Time

A drone helps you decide within minutes the type and amount of resources to send to the scene. Some drones are also equipped with thermal sensors, which uses infrared radiation to help first responders locate heat signatures of humans and fire hotspots that show where fires are most likely to spread. Even before your personnel arrive on the scene, commanders are able to make decisions just from these images live-streamed to their computers.

In early December whilst fighting a blaze, SanParks made use of a DJI drone with an infrared camera to capture images of the Rocklands fire in Simonstown.

In a similar incident in the German town of Hechingen, firefighters had to fight against winds that were spreading to nearby wooded and populated areas. The creeks had dried out while the first fire truck that arrived carried only 2,000 liters of water.

Hechingen’s Fire Brigade deployed DJI’s Matrice 210 ruggedised commercial grade drone, a Zenmuse XT thermal camera, and an X4S high definition visual imaging camera. These fed information to the incident commanders and helped them know where to direct their resources, how many units to send and where to increase water supply.  At the end, the crew extinguished the blaze with only 5,000 liters of water mixed with compressed air foam. The drones not only helped them save water but more importantly hastened reaction time helping the Brigade send crews faster to the scene with the exact manpower, units and supplies.

“The biggest advantage came to light during the search for hotspots and extinguishing them,” Hechingen’s Fire Chief Commander Bulach later told DJI, “The simultaneous deployment of the XT and X4S provided me with exact information about where to delete the hotspots and how long until we reached a safe state.”

2. Drones Protect Your Personnel

Drones help you monitor your crew to make sure you’re sending them in the right direction, that they’re safe and to help you determine whether to send backup forces.

On 13 August 2017, Yosemite firefighters battled a 9-day blaze in Southfork, California, that was complicated by weakened timber trees in the nearby region. Flying planes in the tight canyons was dangerous due to a bellowing column of smoke. At the same time, an unexpected thunderstorm spread the fire, blurring the firefighters’ primary containment line and threatening to spread to nearby villages.  The Yosemite fire-force used a DJI drone with the Zenmuse XT thermal payload in their pre-shift early morning hours to map fire lines and livestream information to controllers for operational decisions and situational awareness.  Tony Eggiman, Menlo Park FPD Fire Captain recalled, “the operations major told me later it brought his blood pressure from about 200 down to about 100. He was really happy.”

With aerial intelligence captured by drones, incident commanders can make better-informed decisions that keep firefighters safe while they plunge into fire and other dangerous spots to save other peoples’ lives.

 3. Drones Enable Fast Mapping for Incident Response as Well as for Post-Incident Recovery

Drone solutions for forest fire response typically carry two different cameras: a visual camera and a thermal camera. The visual camera gives you a real-time view of different situations, able to easily spot things such as your fire team or nearby equipment. The thermal camera scouts for heat signature of the human or fire hotspots.

Drones fly lower than helicopters, providing a more nuanced picture of the situation, and can navigate in tight or dangerous spaces where no helicopter pilot would dare to go. With thermal imaging capabilities, they can locate hotspots at a fire scene within seconds, and see people trapped even in areas of thick smoke.

Drones also play an important role after the fire has been put out. During the Carr Fire, crews piloted low-flying drones to capture 360-degree images of the destruction. For the residents forced out of their homes, this provided invaluable information on property damage to assess insurance claims in a faster time, letting victims more quickly take steps to rebuild their lives.

4. Drones Give you Accurate Intelligence for Informed Decision Making

Wildfires often involve large-scale operations where the incident commander must make decisions on personnel and resource deployment. Drones are effective intelligence generators that can capture detailed data and information from the field, and live stream back to the command centre. By having that real-time aerial view, you can see exactly what’s happening and don’t have to rely on second-hand information. You know what’s going on and where. You can also monitor your crew to see their location and that you’re sending them in the right direction.

Drones allowed firefighters of the Gaoming district, Foshan in South China to expertly evaluate 960 people when a fire broke out on Lingyun Mountain near the area, December 12, 2019.

The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual (M2ED) was flown out within minutes of the response team’s arrival at the incident for fast situational awareness. Two minutes later, the Matrice 210 V2 drone platform was launched, giving detailed information with its sensor’s 30 times zooming ability. The Mavic gave responders their quick incident overlook, while the Matrice provided detailed, high-resolution images for thorough situational awareness. The combination saved more lives, protected firefighters, and shaved firefighting costs. 

As Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Battalion Chief Richard Fields, program coordinator, told the Board of Fire Commissioners in a March 2019 report, “Timely and accurate communication is essential in getting the right resources in place to mitigate an incident.”

Drones have gained a foothold in the sphere of public safety and forward looking government agencies are expanding their use in areas including environmental services, public works, transportation and rescue services. Download DJI’s whitepaper to explore the Best Practices For Deploying Drones At State And Local Government Level.

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