Here’s how many employees South Africa’s biggest banks have shed

 ·12 Dec 2019

[Update: a previous version of this article attributed staff losses to retrenchments, but they include all terminations, including retrenchments, dismissals, resignations and deaths.]

PwC has published a new analysis focusing on the major trends across South Africa’s banking sector, including the number of employees gained and lost by the country’s major banks over the last two years.

Lenders are cutting jobs as they seek ways to lower costs and contend with slow economic growth and fresh competition in the industry from branchless, digital entrants such as TymeBank and insurer Discovery.

Job cuts in the country are particularly sensitive as the unemployment rate has risen to 29%, the highest in more than a decade.

Absa, Standard Bank, and Nedbank Group have all consulted with staff about cuts in recent months.

This culminated with the threat of a major banking strike in September, with unions threatening to ‘shut down the country’ due to the retrenchments.

PwC’s data shows that across the four major banking groups (Absa, Nedbank, First Rand, and Standard Bank), only First Rand has seen an increase in employees over the measured time period, with the other banks seeing their work forces shrinking.

These losses can be attributed to retrenchments, resignations, dismissals and deaths.

You can see the impact of these losses on the industry from the second half of 2017 through to the first half of 2019 in the graphs and table below.

Bank 2017 1H 2018 2H 2018 1H 2019 Retrenched/Hired (%)
First Rand 45 026 46 284 47 334 48 780 +3 754 (+8.3%)
Nedbank 31 531 31 272 30 877 30 335 -1 196 (-3.8%)
Absa 41 703 41 250 40 856 39 763 -1 940 (-4.7%)
Standard Bank 48 322 48 265 47 419 46 168 -2 154 (-4.5%)
Combined 166 582 167 071 166 486 165 046 -1 536 (-0.9%)


While Capitec does not feature in the PwC report, the bank indicated to BusinessTech in September that it continues to hire and is not planning any major retrenchments.

Since February 2019, 149 employees have joined the group, taking employee numbers to 13,923 people, said CEO Gerrie Fourie.

“We’re fortunate to be growing, continuously hiring new employees and not retrenching,” he said.

“Our implementation of technology in the business has not posed a threat to jobs, instead it has helped us improve processes, freeing up our staff to help clients bank better.”

Fourie said that the bank plans to appoint over 600 new employees in the next six months in a number of positions. These include service consultants, coders, and data scientists.

“We have 834 branches across the country in convenient locations and approximately six million clients visit our branches every month. We have converted 122 branches where we have removed the cashier and implemented a full self-help functionality,” said Fourie.

“This enabled us to add an additional consultant workstation for further capacity in the branch. Altogether 21 new branches are scheduled to open during the second half of this financial year.”

Looking at Capitec’s reported staff numbers over the same periods covered above, the group has seen a 5% increase, or 651 more employees.

Read: Here’s how much South Africa’s banking and financial salaries are expected to increase in 2020

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