Barclays Africa – which trades as Absa in South Africa – recently announced that it plans to collaborate with nine financial technology (fintech) companies to explore new technology-based services that could prompt significant improvements for consumers.
The fintech companies are among ten businesses that participated in the 2017 Barclays Accelerator in collaboration with Techstars.
“The solutions created by these companies are among the top innovations in the fintech space in the world right now,” said Yasaman Hadjibashi, chief creation officer at Barclays Africa Group.
“Any of these solutions could have the potential to solve some of the biggest challenges facing the financial services sector in Africa,” said Hadjibashi.
She broke down some of the newest and most exciting technologies these fintechs are working on, as well as new technology being developed by the bank itself.
According to Hadjibashi , the banking group is exploring the potential services and products developed by a range of companies, including the following:
|Company||What they’re working on|
|Abe.ai||Abe AI is an AI platform that eliminates friction within customer interactions, helping banks provide superior customer service at scale while reducing operational costs.|
|Howler||Howler is the tech platform that event organisers use to optimise the planning, promotion, management and control of their events, and to create fault-free, frictionless, seamless guest experiences and ‘moments that matter’.|
|Spatialedge||Spatialedge – Proprietary technology, as well as wholly-owned spatial and consumer datasets are used to drive precision targeted engagements with existing, and prospective clients, growing both the customer base and customer lifetime value by enabling critical customer acquisition and retention activities to become data driven.|
|Sun Exchange||Sun Exchange enables anyone in the world own and lease solar panels to power African businesses and communities to earn a solar powered income. Sun Exchange closes a huge gap for commercial scale solar energy finance across Africa. The underpinning technology that enables this is Blockchain, used to enable global micro-investing using autonomous secure smart-contracts.|
|FOMO Group||FOMO Group consists of two subsidiaries; FOMO Travel and FOMO Payments. FOMO Travel is a proven business which allows people to travel debt-free and conscience-free. FOMO Payments is taking the same model to the entire travel industry by allowing a wider scope of travelers to use the gamified, lay-by, interest-free payment solution with any supplier.|
|Avenews-GT||Avenews-GT is a decentralized ecosystem for agricultural trade that provides a digital trading platform based on Blockchain technology to enable verified farmers and cooperatives to transact directly with agri-buyers such as retailers and manufacturers to reduce distribution costs, create financial security and increase supply chain transparency.|
|Byte Money||Byte Money is a receipting and allocation specialist servicing Sub Saharan Africa. The platform enables secure, verified and authenticated ‘agent collections’ and real time reporting for the micro finance industry.|
|FlexPay||FlexPay Technologies offers an automated, reliable and accurate lay-buy purchase platform that increases merchant’s sales by enabling customers to afford goods and services via convenient flexible payments. With both online and offline functionality, consumers are enabled to make payments towards the intended item for purchase over a stipulated timeframe.|
|Kapitalwise||Kapitalwise disrupts the way millennial investors invest in capital markets by simplifying the process through the automation of investment decisions. They empower financial enterprises with a simple and easy to use digital platform that will nudge users to make frequent but small investment.|
What else is Barclays Working on?
Hadjibashi also spoke about some other new technologies the company was working on outside of the accelerator programme.
“Aside from the Accelerator programme, we have a number of Proof of Concepts underway: SensorIt is an Internet of Things start-up and Hello Soda offers an alternative credit scoring method aimed at a younger generation where getting a credit score can be a barrier to accessing financial services,” she said.
“Beyond the Accelerator, we are always on the lookout for interesting innovations that we can plug into the bank. We have a co-working community that has conceptualised some great ideas that we have already integrated.”
“We are additionally working across sectors now by helping our corporate clients with innovation – we recently hosted an Agritech event find the links between financial services and agribusiness, and some great thinking emerged, such as crop insurance end drones.”
South African Banks vs International banks
While technology in South Africa’s banking sector is constantly being developed, the sector has to deal with some unique challenges international banks don’t face.
“We have the youngest generation of customers and we need to design pioneering solutions to meet their needs,” said Hadjibashi.
“One of the areas this is particularly important in Africa is Financial Inclusion.”
“We work very closely with think tanks like CENFRI (the Centre for Financial Regulation and Inclusion), where we believe that collecting meaningful data will unlock opportunities to bank customers in lower income communities better. There is so much promise in Africa as an emerging market – and SMEs are the lever for growing the economy.”
“We need to be the bank that supports that growth.”
Speaking on what she believes the next big tech innovation will be in South Africa’s banking sector, Hadjibashi highlighted the increasing need for banks to become “personal”.
“Banking is becoming far more personal and requires rebuilding of products and services to meet customers’ needs,” she said.
“The next step in that journey is going to be using technology such as Artificial Intelligence to make the communication and connection seamless.”
Citing recent research by McKinsey she noted that it was important to think of AI as contributing to a transformation of society “happening ten times faster and at 300 times the scale” of the Industrial Revolution.
An example of Barclays introducing that into its offering is the work its internal team did with Facebook Messenger and the Absa chatbot, she said.
“Looking ahead, we will also see greater convergence of banking across sectors – watch the Internet of Things space as an example.”