Customer & Client

We create value by being the financial services group of choice

Quality service is central to our growth. To retain and acquire customers and clients, we have to remain relevant by offering innovative and cost-effective products and solutions.

Key matters raised by stakeholders …
  • Access to cost-effective, simple and convenient financial services
  • Financial inclusion through products, increased access points (physical and digital) and markets
  • System reliability and availability to transact on their chosen platform
  • Service levels and efficient resolution of service failures (complaints)
  • Protection against fraud, and safety of personal data (customer privacy and data security)
… inform our material focus areas …
  1. Understanding customer and client needs
  2. Creating and delivering solutions through a balanced distribution model
  3. Ensuring trust and safety
  4. Effective management of information and technology while driving innovation
… to achieve the following value …

For our customers and clients

  • Simple, efficient, cost-effective banking solutions
  • A safe and trustworthy financial services provider

For the Group

  • Improved NPS®
  • Increased revenue from existing and new customers and clients
  • Customer and client trust and support

We provide financial services to our customers and clients through a multi-channel approach, providing our customers and clients with a choice of engagement platforms from various digital solutions to call centres to face-to-face engagements in branches, client suites and with relationship managers. We continued refurbishing and re-positioning some of our branches, ATMs and cash-accepting devices. Increasingly, we emphasise the development of new technology-based solutions.

The growth of our business is directly linked to the way we treat our customers and clients and manage their assets, and we actively measure our performance through our NPS® among other service measures.

1. Understanding customer and client needs

Customers and clients expect businesses to understand and serve them better using existing information. Interactions with our customers and clients, through point-of-sale devices, ATMs, internet banking or call centres and in branches, are opportunities to understand them better. This information allows us to tailor customer and client solutions, which meet their needs at the right moment.

Technology has redefined transactional banking, and it accelerates our customer and client service across all channels. The intelligent relationship between data, insights-driven solutions and human interactions ultimately differentiates us through richer solutions with the correct products, services and advice.

Our data strategy is aimed at better understanding our customers and clients so to assist them with the right products and services and with their risk management.

2. Creating and delivering solutions through a balanced distribution model

South Africa Banking

South Africa Banking’s strategic goal is to grow profitability by focusing on customer experience and service. This will be achieved by:

  • investing in partnerships, digital, design and data capabilities, underpinned by redesigned customer service and experience;
  • simplifying and automating processes to enhance customer experience, stability and reduce costs; and
  • leveraging African expertise, while using our international network, to strengthen competitive propositions.

Our digital, design and data capabilities are essential for responding to our customers’ and clients’ needs, enhancing their experience and reducing their dependency on physical branches.

We simplify administration for our customers and clients through solutions such as account number portability (keeping the account number when changing account types) and digital upload of FICA documents. Swiish encourages customers to enjoy the benefits of online payments, and tapping and swiping Absa cards.

Absa Value Bundles offer exceptional value, and our pay-as-you-transact offering is a simple and transparent option for customers who only wish to transact minimally. Other innovations include a market-first integrated graduate proposition, higher embedded funeral cover on Absa Flexi Value Bundles, and new ATM functionality that allows customers to personalise and save their favourite transactions. Absa Rewards offers customers cash back and bonuses, based on their product portfolio and the way in which they bank.

Through Absa Premium Banking, customers can use one card for all their personal banking, have free online and mobile banking, easier access to wealth advisory, family, lifestyle and travel benefits. Our free youth account, MegaU, now includes an interactive app that makes banking simple, rewarding and educational for children. Parents can use the app to teach children about money and the responsibility that comes with it.

Workplace Banking offers full banking and insurance at preferential rates on-site, and financial wellness education that strengthens our clients’ employee value proposition. Virtual Pay allows businesses to better monitor and control their travel and entertainment expenses – it integrates with most procurement systems and travel booking tools to create and distribute virtual cards. This helps to curb fraud and card abuse.

Following the Separation, global connectivity and international partnerships will be critical for Corporate and Investment Bank. We will strengthen our competitive propositions across all sectors and enhance client relationships with independent international offices in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Our complaints per 1 000 customers increased to 0.92 (2016: 0.89), with 36% (2016: 29%) resolved at first point of contact. Despite this increase in complaints, our NPS® increased to 33%, up 4% from 2016. We achieved a consistent customer experience measurement score of 77 (2016: 76), driven by the personal attention received by customers at branches, resolving complaints timeously, providing accurate feedback, continued communication, and secure and reliable digital channels.

Rest of Africa Banking

Rest of Africa Banking’s strategic goal is to achieve top three revenue position in all countries, while focusing on select sectors and product mix to manage costs. This will be achieved by:

  • building a differentiated offering, supported by quality analytics, digital channels and competent relationship managers;
  • becoming a market leader in economically critical industries – agriculture, wholesale and retail trade – across Africa, and in mining, oil and gas in selected countries; and
  • gaining primary customers and clients through improved product delivery capability, including technology infrastructure, channels and product specialists.

We developed insight-driven customer value propositions in Retail and Business Bank with a focus on customer lifecycle management and continued enhancing core infrastructure and digital platforms. We enabled internet banking for our small and medium business customers and focused on improving the customer onboarding and banking experience in the affluent and business segments. Customers and clients in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia without access to smartphones can make use of Hello Money (a basic mobile phone banking solution) and can also make online and ATM bill payments. Agency banking is operational in Kenya and allows our customers to perform basic transactions such as bill payments, balance inquiries as well as card and cardless cash deposits and withdrawals at third-party outlets.

Prepaid cards, available in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, are a cash management solution which enables customers and clients to distribute cards to individuals who can spend funds locally or internationally. CashSend allows cash remittance from our ATMs without a bank card and via a mobile phone in Botswana and Kenya. Kenya is piloting Timiza, the country’s first ever virtual bank, offering instant lending, insurance and transactional capabilities via mobile phone. It uses statistical credit risk modelling to arrive at quick decisions for short-term loans.

We have continued driving opportunities in Corporate and Investment Bank. For example, we participated in our first, and the largest ever initial public offering on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange in Tanzania, with a value of USD213m. We facilitated the Ghanaian government’s auction of four local bonds totalling USD2.3bn, the largest single-day bond sale in sub-Saharan Africa’s history.

The launch of our Barclays Africa Financial Markets Index, which ranks the maturity, openness and accessibility of 17 financial markets in Africa based on qualitative and quantitative criteria, is available to investors and corporate clients for consideration in business decisions.

Our Net Promoter Score® has decreased to 24% (2016: 31%), while we achieved a consistent customer experience measurement score of 75 (2016: 75). We have enhanced our retention model to better understand our customers and so improve our customer experience scores. We are also focusing on improving responsiveness and complaint management. Complaints per 1 000 customers was 7.70 (2016: 6.55), however we resolved 76% of these at first point of contact an increase from 67% in 2016.

Wealth, Investment Management and Insurance

WIMI’s strategic goal is to grow assets under management and to grow premium income through the protection of client assets, enabled by a simple and efficient business. This will be achieved by:

  • retaining customers and gaining market share through collaboration with South Africa Banking and Rest of Africa Banking;
  • investing in customer and digital initiatives and extracting value from existing data investments; and
  • completing the exit from non-core business lines and building out the necessary capabilities for growth.

We constantly make business simpler and more cost-effective through digital self-service and system enhancements. WIMI One View provides a single view of the customer, which improves data insights and our ability to serve customers better. We have diversified from face-to-face interactions to hybrid models (Virtual Advisor) and digital platforms (Virtual Investor), and we have enhanced our financial advisor value proposition by simplifying the remuneration structure for advisors and by including retirement and associated benefits.

We continue to leverage behavioural data and usage of products and solutions to create tailored solutions for customers across the wealth product spectrum. Our focus is on further enhancing existing value propositions and to build new propositions through internal innovation and strategic partnerships with niche specialist providers.

To support the distribution of our investment offering, and in addition to our internal network, we have a distribution network of independent financial advisers and continue to enhance coverage of the institutional investment market.

Our Virtual Investor tool is a platform for Absa and non-Absa clients to buy unit trusts online, and we revamped our Absa Investments website. Our focus remains on delivering simpler solutions through digital innovation and system enhancements.

In our insurance portfolio, we optimise opportunities and infrastructure, closely aligning with the South Africa Banking product and distribution channels. We continue to build a bancassurance network and skills base in South Africa to enable delivery in our Rest of Africa operations. We obtained the second bancassurance license ever issued in Uganda, allowing us to use our existing country infrastructure to provide insurance offerings through multiple channels.

We have disposed of two intermediary business lines in order to focus on our core strengths and will continue to build digital and direct channels for customer convenience and improved efficiencies.

We achieved an improved Net Promoter Score® of 34% (2016: 30%), and a customer experience measurement score of 78 (2016: 77). Our complaints per 1 000 customers increased at 0.17 (2016: 0.16), which was still below expected levels, after the catastrophic weather events in the short-term insurance business, which traditionally increase complaints. We continue to address customer experience by improving our insights into our customers’ and clients’ needs, building capabilities to be more customer-centric and investing in our colleagues.

3. Ensuring trust and safety

For our customers and clients, financial crime risks include ATM and branch security (for example card skimming and robberies), card fraud, and increasingly online/digital security risks. Threats from crime syndicates and cyber attackers are growing exponentially; we invest in protecting our customers, clients and the Group. We have a holistic security strategy that uses local and global alliances to continuously share threat intelligence and best practices for detection and prevention. Because of these alliances, for example, with the South African Banking Risk Information Centre, we proactively prevent customer, client and Group losses.

In 2017, total fraud losses were 28% lower at R184m (2016: R256m), with 97% (R178m) of fraud losses (2016: 81%, R210m) attributable to South Africa. Card fraud remains the main contributor, amounting to 54%, (R100m) (2016: 50%, R128m) of total Group fraud losses. Chip and pin technology prevented counterfeit cards, which accounted for the reduced losses.

Customer and client losses were 20% lower at R81m (2016: R101m) due to improved security protocols and lower value of fraud events. Social engineering techniques that steal account numbers, PINs and passwords are becoming more sophisticated. We engage with our customers and clients directly and through industry bodies to highlight the risks they face and continually improve our defences.

We actively develop protective measures, such as two-factor authentication in South Africa, which prevents fraudsters from intercepting verification messages to customers’ SIM cards (an often-exploited vulnerability). Absa DebiCheck, currently in its pilot phase, allows customers to authenticate a debit order, including the value and processing date, thus curbing unauthorised or disputed debit orders.

We prevented more violent crimes due to advanced security technology and convictions. In 2017, public protests affected Absa branches and, regrettably caused some injuries to our customers and employees. Outside of South Africa, the physical security of our operations has remained stable.

4. Effective management of information and technology, while driving innovation

We are engineering the Group’s future through three core initiatives that will make banking easier, safer and more affordable:

  • Transform and modernise our applications and innovate ways to deploy our technology infrastructure.
  • Build advanced data solutions that will provide us with deeper insights and improve customer and client experience.
  • Make financial services safer through significant investments in leading edge cyber capabilities.
  • Leveraging strategic partnerships and collaborating with fintechs to drive innovation, increase market access and enhance our customer value propositions.

Technology

Through our strategic change programme, and within the context of the Separation, we will transform our technology estate to include solutions for financial crime, human resources, corporate channels and payments.

Using cloud services, our technological operations are faster, more versatile, have reduced support overheads, and reach the market earlier. New hyper-converged technologies make our technology infrastructure more reliable, agile and scalable.

We are digitising our operations through robotics and artificial intelligence to improve turnaround times and customer experience. Innovations include facial recognition in fraud detection and client service automation.

We continuously develop and customise resilience policies, procedures and training to reduce the time to recover in the event of an incident.

Data management

We are growing our data management capability with the aim to become a holistically digital and data-driven business. This will enhance customer insights, improve delivery, facilitate high-quality regulatory reporting and deliver operational efficiencies.

Through formal learning programmes as well as the acquisition and retention of top talent, we have access to the latest advanced analytics thinking around machine learning and artificial intelligence to solve business problems. We partner with universities, sponsor various data science scholarships and, in particular, we are co-developing a Masters programme in data science with the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Our data and analytics capabilities improve risk management, using models to detect, predict and prevent financial crime. We are also able to predict ATM downtime by analysing usage. We collaborate with our corporate clients to leverage our investment in data science and assist them with their data challenges. We gather insights from their own data, using our infrastructure and in-depth knowledge.

Cyber security

Cybercriminals and organised crime syndicates are well-funded, well-resourced and capable of sophisticated attacks, targeting consumers, citizens and industries alike. As threats grow exponentially, individuals and corporate cyber security must become more vigilant to protect personal and business information, and digital interactions.

We have consolidated the full suite of security as one function. This provides one strategy and direction including:

  • cyber security and risk management;
  • information security and information risk management;
  • physical and executive security;
  • fraud defence, forensics and investigations; and
  • resilience under one strategy.

This enables a holistic view of security risks across our operations and customer interactions, a unified view of the threat landscape (physical or virtual) and an integrated response to address risk at its source.

Embedding security as part of our culture is key, and we take proactive measures to continuously improve our employees’ capabilities, our security culture and our customers’ and clients’ awareness around threats. We have improved the secure authentication of our customers and clients across our digital channels and continuously review and improve our fraud defences.

One of the challenges we face is the growing need for employees with the expertise to defend us against the threat landscape. Over two million cyber security vacancies are expected globally by 2019, and Africa has an especially critical need for cyber security skills as it digitises and connects virtually.