FNB CEO: It's not about the tech, its about hearts and minds | Fin24
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FNB CEO: It's not about the tech, its about hearts and minds

Mar 07 2018 09:40
Jan Cronje

Cape Town - FNB may have shifted its "centre of gravity" from physical branches to the digital space in recent years, but its brains trust is aware that it needs to do more than roll out cutting-edge banking tech to attract and retain customers.

FNB CEO Jacques Celliers, speaking to Fin24 in the wake of the bank's half-year interim results announcement on Tuesday, said FNB still needs to win the “hearts and minds” of customers to remain successful. 

The bank announced earlier on Tuesday that its banking app usage increased by 66% in the six months to end-December 2017.

FNB's overall profits before tax were up 11% over the same period, to R10.4bn. 

"In the early days digital strategies were something we did on top of our manual distribution capabilities, let's call it branches versus digital. Over the last few years our centre of gravity has shifted and our entire purpose is about the digital platform," he said. 

The FNB app, which has been downloaded over one million times on Google Play, was used to make about 73.5 million transactions in the last six months of 2017, compared to 44 million in the six months ended 2016. 

Celliers said the bank understs, however, that technological advances alone won't make it successful. 

“It’s not about proving the tech works or coming up with a different button on the screen. Those things are very easy to do. We do most of the things that people talk about… we have got them implemented, or in pilot mode.

“That is not what it is about. It is about wining hearts of minds of people, making people trust you with their money.”


FNB has been aggressively moving into the digital banking space in recent years, offering mobile, internet and app banking. Its bank branches have been rebranded as "points of presence", and it has been offering customers more online functionality without visiting a physical location.  

Last year, for example, the bank introduced the ability to dispute debit orders online, which historically had to be done in banks. 

As a result the bank is also “right-sizing” its physical footprint, as it doesn’t need as many tellers counting money. FNB hopes it will save it money. 

A 2 000m² branch, for example, could in the future be downsized to 500m², said Celliers.   

But despite the move into the digital space, Celliers said FNB remains a holistic bank. And he said that its 180-year legacy and large scale is a benefit when it comes to competing for tech-savvy customers against new arrivals promising to upend the banking sector. 

“There is a lot of good to have in these big stable platforms,” he said. “[We have] 180 years of history, a lot of relationships.

“Our challenge as a leadership team and as a management team is to use our 40 000 people and this massive amount of data and our massive capabilities and resources, and beat the competitors of tomorrow.”

The bank has 2 500 developers, which Celliers said could copy anything rivals come up with “in one weekend”. 

“There is no such thing as ‘tech catches you out any more’… it is whether you chose to implement something or not.”

“We love competition,” added Celliers. “We want to win when the competition is strong, not when they are weak.”

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