What banks need to succeed in the digital transformation drive

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021 00:00 | By
Bank customers queue for services. Borrowers will suffer the most after MPs handed commercial banks free hand in determining the rates. PHOTO: COURTESY

Andrew Mwithiga       

STRATEGY: Since the onset of Coronavirus (Covid-19), ways of doing business from a personal, organisational and global level have evolved rapidly. 

The pandemic has challenged and shifted society’s approach to solving problems under strict adherence to social distance protocols.

This has opened a new path for technological advances to fulfil tasks formerly done via physical interaction.

Although Covid-19 may have led to a crisis in the economy, the impact on the banking industry, especially the bank-customer relationship, could as well be termed as a positive acceleration to digitisation in order to offer better customer experience. 

Thanks to a highly interconnected world, protective measures such as social distancing and lockdowns which affected business have served to speed up innovative ways of communication, propelled by tech tools that have both quickened and made interactions unique at a global scale.

Businesses have adapted fast to the e-nature of transactions providing their customers with tools to conduct business globally on a one-stop shop arrangement, backed by a multi-channel of back-office operations that clients are hardly aware of.

On the other hand, more and more customers are seeking easy and convenient solutions, similar or even better than they would get in a branch. 

They are moving away from cash in search of alternative ways that limit human contact.

With cash being no longer king, there is a niche to be filled with the growing appetite for solutions such as contactless payment which prevent cash handling.

The truth of the matter is, this pandemic has ignited new demand for e-payment services.

It has given banks an opportunity to integrate and introduce systems and solutions such as Contactless Cards. 

Convenient alternative

The latter is an easy and convenient alternative of cash payment in which the customer can make payments using chip cards.

As financial service providers we have committed to mooting more innovative products that facilitate branchless banking.

To say Kenya’s traditional banking model - over the counter and use of ATMs - has undergone unprecedented transformation is an understatement.

There is heightened acceptance of internet-ready payment products as well as USSD-based delivery platforms that are faster, hassle- free and efficient. 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation estimates more than 2 billion people will have digital bank accounts on cloud-based banking platforms by 2030.

While banks continue to use technology to confront the challenges and risks posed by the pandemic to remain afloat and continue to serve their customers, they must equally assure customers of utmost security while transacting.

While this was a coping tactic for banks, customers have equally reaped handsomely as they can access services round the clock, on weekends and holidays without the need for human contact.

WhatsApp banking

Just recently, we launched WhatsApp banking with Abby, the first of a kind chatbot that combines both informational and transactional capabilities to make it easier, faster and better for customers to transact.

To do this, we availed our most-demanded services such as account to account transfers, bill payments, account to M-Pesa/Airtel Money transfers, balance enquiry, among many other services, on WhatsApp.

This year, Absa is enriching its mantra of customer obsession through digital investments of Sh1.6 billion for over 60 different technology projects.

These investments are aimed at revamping the current IT infrastructure to allow; faster transactions, integrated ecosystem services, sound economic models, adoption of latest security advancement such as biometric verification and security of client data against theft, or cybercrimes when dealing with wider storage networks.

Such investments in technology build organisational agility - the ability to respond and adapt to market changes.

To succeed in the digital transformation journey, innovation needs to be part of the overarching culture within financial institutions.

It should be encouraged across product lines with the customers’ needs and expectations taking centre stage.  –The writer is the Head of Digital Channels at Absa Kenya Plc

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