Barclays Africa Group Retail and Business Banking CEO Craig Bond. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Cape Town – Absa Bank parent company Barclays is on course to up its game in South African banking as it makes up ground in the online and mobile space.
“To be honest with you, we’d fallen behind some of our competitors in the digital banking space and yet we were ahead of them in the ATM space. All I’d like to say without giving too much away is watch this space,” Craig Bond, chief executive of Retail and Business Banking at Barclays Africa Group told Fin24.
The company has piloted fingerprint ATMs but in 2016, its focus on rolling out digital tools to drive online banking. The company also launched an Apple Watch application, beating out rival Standard Bank.
READ: Fingerprint ATMs won't eradicate PIN codes
Bond said that the bank’s strategy was fine-tuned to harness digital skills in the organisation.
“There are always in big organisations pockets of innovation, and I think one of those areas in particular was digital. We’ve put all of our digital assets across the bank – whether it’s the design, roll-out of products, internet banking, or the techies. They all sit together; they’re all one team.
“For the first time, all this good stuff that’s happening in the organisation is one pressure cooker, aiming in one direction,” he added.
Absa which has nine million customers as at the end of 2015 trailed both First National Bank (FNB) and Standard Bank in rolling out a mobile banking application.
However, both FNB and Standard have suffered reputation damage with a brief platform shutdowns. Absa is racing to pass rivals as more customers increasingly expect mobile banking services.
READ: FNB online systems hit by downtime
“One thing we’ve realised in this innovative race: It’s not just about being first to market, it’s ‘What is appealing to customers?’ We’ve realised that not only does the digital team have huge pressure to be better than all our traditional competitors, they’ve also got pressure to get to market fast and do things really quickly,” said Bond.
But he conceded that there was much work to be done before Absa could match the functionality of rivals’ applications.
“There’re some innovative issues like the Apple Watch where really, we just wanted to be first to market with something cool and funky. Much more important is ‘How do we come up with a low cost, easy to use banking app?’” said Bond.
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