Fresh on the tail of reports that FNB could be launching its own mobile operator, South Africa’s other banks remain tight-lipped on any plans to follow suit.
On Tuesday (18 June 2013) IT news website MyBroadband broke the news that FNB and Cell C were in advanced talks about an MVNO agreement, and that a positive outcome is likely.
The news was confirmed by two independent sources, MyBroadband reported.
If FNB becomes an MVNO, as the rumours suggest, it will join Virgin Mobile in offering cellular services using its own SIM cards and Cell C’s network, adding to its offering of discounted mobile devices, and free mobile and Internet data to its banking clients.
Absa side-stepped the query completely, pointing out that it offers digital solutions to customers through its various account options and banking channels already in place.
Standard Bank acknowledged that it constantly evaluates how to improve the value proposition for its customers, but opted not to comment further.
“We cannot comment on our strategy until we are ready to launch it to our customers,” said Sugendhree Reddy, head of personal markets at Standard Bank South Africa.
Nedbank did not respond to the query by the time of publication.
All of SA’s banks have highlighted the importance of developing their digital channels.
In May, FNB told BusinessTech that it is driving towards a level of online functionality that will make it possible for customers to interact with the bank solely through digital means.
“In future, the bank plans to have customers who purely interact with the bank via digital channels,” it said.
FNB has been the market leader in offering digital firsts to its banking clients since it was first-to-market with its dedicated banking app in July 2011.
FNB’s level of digital innovation even caught international attention, with the bank earning the title of Most Innovative Bank in the World at the The Financial Global Banking Innovation Awards in October 2012.
To-date, FNB’s banking app has over 500,000 active users, while its online channel pushes over 100 million transactions per month with R7 billion in value per annum, according to the bank.
South Africa’s other banks have been slow to chase FNB’s lead in the digital space, with Standard Bank being the second to launch its banking app almost a full year after FNB, in June 2012.
Nedbank followed suit, launching its App Suite a month later in July, while Absa lagged even further behind, launching its app in April 2013.
In terms of offering devices to banking customers, competing banks once again had to play catch-up to FNB’s lead – with Standard Bank launching its own smartphone and tablet deals for banking customers in July 2012.
Absa offers a special sign-up bonus of an iPad with its Potentiate account and discounts for devices with its study loans, but neither Absa nor Nedbank act as a sales point of digital devices to their banking clients.
FNB was also the first bank in South Africa to head into the realm of “digital” branches, launching the first dotFNB branch in April 2012. The branch, and subsequent branches, provide a cashless, digital-only connection between FNB and its customers.
In June 2012, Nedbank lauched its “next generation” branches with a technological boost, putting measurements in place to make banking more accessible and as seemless as possible.
In June 2013, a year later, Absa unveiled its “futuristic” (aolmost) paperless branch to complement the bank’s growing digital offering.