We want to get back to number one: Absa

Absa CEO of Africa retail and business banking, Craig Bond called for the bank to return to its number one position, as it unveiled its “futuristic” paperless branch in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, which it intends to rollout across its territories in Africa.

In what Absa CEO Maria Ramos described as “the new face of traditional banking”, the refurbished branch includes tech enhancements including quick service kiosks enabling customers to perform self-service banking activities, while a new Qmatic system uses a ticketing system to match a customer’s transactional requirements with the correctly skilled consultant.

Ramos said that the bank is working on a rollout plan for its branches across the country, and in time, across its 1,200 branches in territories in Africa which includes Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

“We are proud to complement our digital offering with the Hyde Park branch that simplifies customers’ relationship with the bank and makes banking an easier and more enjoyable experience,” Ramos said, adding that it was not only about the new technology, “it’s about the services that come with it”.

At 31 December 2012, Absa said it had 10.9 million customers, down from 12.1 million in 2011. By March 2013, MoneyWeb stated that Absa’s client numbers for retail and business banking in South Africa, had declined to 10.3 million, putting it behind Standard Bank with 10.4 million clients excluding business accounts.

Speaking at Absa’s new branch unveiling ceremony in Hyde Park on Tuesday evening, Bond said that the new paperless branch would be a model the bank will adopt across Africa, following a proposed merger between the bank’s operations and Barclays with the new entirety to be rebranded as Barclays Africa Limited.

Ramos outlined the group’s ambition on Tuesday by saying that Absa aimed to be “locally significant, and globally relevant” while also becoming the “go to bank across the continent”.

Bond added that most of the bank’s 700 branches across the country would adopt the same looks and feel before the end of the year, and other branches in Africa within the next few years.

“It’s high time Absa is back,” Bond said, noting the group’s position at the pinnacle in the past. “We want to be back there again” he said.

In May, All Media and Products Survey (AMPS) data on the South African banking sector showed that Absa retained its position as SA’s largest bank.

The AMPS results – based on the “main bank” population and not specific products – shows that Absa has retained the largest portion of South Africa’s 23.2 (2012) million banked population, covering 32.9% of the market. This is down from 34.9% in 2011.

First National Bank moved down from 25.6% to 25.2%, while Standard Bank saw a 0.4% increase in market share, from 23.5% to 23.9%.

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We want to get back to number one: Absa