Over 130,000 interviews in a brand name survey and a 12 billion rand (Sh90bn) ‘divorce’ settlement from the Barclays PLC, the Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (Absa) went live on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange last week with the lender promising to shake the banking landscape.
And immediately following the move the lender, with an eye on a pan-African look, said it will adopt a digital-first strategy in offering its products. It has set its sights on a 12 per cent market share of banking revenues in Africa promising a bruising battle for customers through acquisitions and strategic partnerships.
In an interview with Smart Company, Absa Group Limited Chief Executive Maria Ramos said the group will be banking on the newly launched WhatsApp banking platform to provide an easy way for customers to access services.
“We will create a superior consumer finance franchise, build a leading global payments hub and launch a winning transaction banking platform,” she said.
And to assure its Kenya customers Ms Ramos (right) said: “Yes, the new brand is not currently being rolled out in any country rather than South Africa. However, when it is rolled out in your country, it will not affect functionality and products or services. Existing Barclays platforms, products and services including cards will continue to work in each market as they did before.”
The group says it has until 2020 to finish the roll-out of the new look in countries which include Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Botswana, Nigeria and Zambia. Absa also has a presence in Seychelles and Mauritius .
“Following comprehensive research and wide consultations among our stakeholders from employees to customers and regulators...and considering costs, the way forward was clear; we will have one name across our operations. It will be a brand that unites and reflects our collective unity,” she said.
“Our new name and brand are an expression of our new purpose and strategic direction which commits us to growing in Africa. We are rallying around a shared sense of purpose and identity while celebrating diversity.”
Absa Group deputy chief executive Peter Matlare said their particular interest in Kenya is driven by the country’s giant strides in technology adoption and innovation adding that their decision to set up a hub in Nairobi was not arbitrary. He was, however, quick to add that whereas technology is essential, it does not replace the need for face-to-face interactions cautioning “ forcing people to go digital will see them go elsewhere.”
He said with the rebranding of its African operations, Absa hopes to change the landscape of banking on the continent.
Mr Matlare said the lender will opt for unique partnerships in each country noting that agriculture is one of their top sectors they target.
His parting shot for Kenya: “Get me those bright minds that can hack into any system and we will take them on board in developing winning products.”
Absa was created through the unification of United Allied and Volkskas Banks in 1991 with Barclays acquiring a 55.5 stake in 2005.