Banks to reduce branches by a fifth?

According to a new report, South Africa’s Big Four banks currently operate 2,877 traditional branches, which financial services firm PwC forecasts will reduce by 21% to 2,285 by 2016.

PwC’s latest industry survey, titled Shaping the bank of the future South African banking survey 2013, highlights the shift and stated intention from SA’s big banks to transition more customers to electronic distribution channels.

ATM numbers are stabilising at around 20,000, PwC said.

“The banking industry is dynamic and has evolved significantly since our last survey in 2011 as banking chief executives have adapted their strategies in response to regulatory changes and global economic pressures,” said Johannes Grosskopf, Banking and Capital Markets Leader at PwC South Africa.

The survey participants included 12 domestic and 10 foreign banks, ranging from local niche players and branches of global banks to the Big Four domestic banks (Nedbank, Standard Bank, Absa and FirstRand).

Banking CEOs and senior executive management were interviewed face-to-face, with discussions based on 40 questions lasting approximately an hour.

As part of the survey, participants were asked their opinions on the top three banks in terms of success – which includes market share, performance, momentum and other factors for each market segment.

In the questionnaire used, participants were asked a variety of questions that took the form of either ranking a series of potential answers in terms of relative importance or assigning a specific score out of 5 to a potential answer.

Standard Bank was voted as best business bank and best corporate bank, as well as the best bank for credit facilities, personal loans and homeloans, while Nedbank was seen as the best bank for property financing, according to the report.

FNB took top position for its Internet banking for the second year in a row.

Technology and Innovation

According to PwC, the big four banks in SA all rank technological innovation of maximum importance.

Technology is regarded as one of the key enablers of innovation, and the majority of survey respondents expect to invest significantly in technology over the medium term, with the Big Four banks each projecting R3-R5 billion dedicated to the sector.

“Some banks have already achieved profitable revenue growth in the South African market by encouraging customers to migrate to electronic channels. Banks are seeking to leverage this experience as they expand across Africa,” PwC said.

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Banks to reduce branches by a fifth?