The best and worst banks in South Africa – according to customers

 ·30 Nov 2021

BrandsEye has published its 2021 South African Banking Sentiment Index, revealing how consumers feel about the big retail banks in the country.

The index is based on over 2.7 million consumer social media posts about South African banks from 1 September 2020 to 31 August 2021. The group then analysed some 500,000 of these posts for sentiment and conversation themes.

The customer service and experience solution provider uses topic analyses to gauge the sentiment of posts (either positive or negative) across 70 topics and seven broad categories, including reputation, customer service, pricing and customer retention.

The net index score is determined by subtracting negative sentiment from positive sentiment.

Overall, the banking industry still experienced more negative conversations on social media than positive – resulting in an industry net sentiment of -7.5% – but it seems to be headed in the right direction, having improved in net sentiment for a second consecutive year.

“Advancing in the index ranks proved more difficult than declining this year,” said BrandsEye business development director Lyndsey Duff.

“Absa, Nedbank, and Discovery Bank all surpassed Standard Bank, despite the latter only declining by 1.8 percentage points in public net sentiment.”

What South Africans think about banks

Seeing the most significant improvements in overall public net sentiment this year was Absa, having climbed the ranks both operationally and reputationally to take first place in the index.

However, the biggest improvement in terms of size was Discovery Bank’s operational improvement of 23.9 percentage points, which saw it move up from eighth last year to sixth this year.

The public net sentiment is the overall customer satisfaction metric, calculated by subtracting all negative sentiment from positive sentiment.

Operational conversation refers specifically to feedback about the customers’ experience of business operations. By contrast, the reputational conversation includes online press coverage, owned and earned PR and marketing efforts, and publicity generated by social responsibility efforts.


In terms of reputational sentiment, TymeBank scored the most positively by a large margin, BrandsEye said.

“The digitally-focused bank used more than 20 social media influencers as brand ambassadors to drive positive content about its products.

“This strategy boosted reputational sentiment by 3.8 percentage points over the year and secured TymeBank third place overall in the 2021 index.”

Standard Bank

Standard Bank saw only a minor 1.4 percentage point decline in public net sentiment but was overtaken by competitors Absa, Nedbank, and Discovery Bank as a result.

“This speaks to the fact that advancing in the ranks was more difficult than declining this year.

“It took an average of a 5.1 percentage point Net Sentiment improvement to climb one rank, while on average a 3.4 percentage point decline was enough to drop a rank,” BrandsEye said.


Capitec, on the other hand, saw a significant drop in the operational sentiment of 18.6 percentage points from 2020.

From scoring a negative net sentiment for the first time last year, Capitec surpassed a new benchmark this year, scoring lower than the industry average for the first time.

African Bank

Despite dropping down the ranks of overall net sentiment, African Bank performed well above the industry average in operational sentiment,

“African Bank’s high operational net sentiment score is as a result of customers looking to sign up for one of their products, which made up 23.6% of the bank’s operational conversation.

“That is nearly four times higher than the rest of the industry, who had purchase queries consisting of around 7% of the operational conversation,” BrandsEye said.

New entrants 

When analysing trends in sentiment towards the new entrants, BrandsEye said it observed a similar pattern for Discovery Bank and TymeBank from launching in 2019, getting established in 2020, and seeing improvement in 2021.

In 2019, Discovery’s shareholder policies caused negativity before the bank’s launch, while TymeBank could drive more positive anticipation. In 2020 both banks suffered declines in Net Sentiment brought on by likely hurdles in establishing new systems.

Discovery’s hurdles were considerably more negative than TymeBank’s. In 2021, however, both banks have seen recoveries to their net sentiment scores.

For Discovery, improvements were operationally driven, while TymeBank saw reputational gains.

Compared to the new entrants, African Bank, a long-established bank, experienced stable sentiment scores in 2019 and 2020 but a decline in net sentiment in 2021.

This resulted in African Bank experiencing the greatest drop in rankings this year, losing four places in reputational net sentiment to sixth.

Read: How to increase your chance of being approved for credit: Capitec

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