While the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector has been pegged as a key driver in the recovery of the COVID-19-ravaged South African economy, the landscape for business owners can still be difficult to navigate – especially when it comes to access to funding and support.
The SME sector was hit hard throughout the various waves of the pandemic.
This resulted in many small enterprises having to reduce business activity, lay off staff and some having to close their doors completely.
With this in mind, Absa is ramping up its offering to its SME clients through innovation and value-added product offerings – making this a key strategic pillar for the business in the next three years.
Collaboration with experts in the digital space will be an important part of this commitment.
The bank has already announced one such collaboration in March 2022 – a market-first mobile payment acceptance solution developed in conjunction with technology firm WIZZIT Digital.
The system enables Absa merchants to use their Android smartphones as a point-of-sale device by simply downloading the Absa Mobile Pay App.
This is a cost-effective way to facilitate contactless payments for SMEs.
But Absa’s digital focus extends further than payments.
“Applying for business funding should be easy for the applicant and processed in the shortest time possible,” says Mkhize.
“By speeding up and simplifying the digital application and approval processes, we hope to take frustration, red tape and unnecessary delays out of the equation when small- and medium-sized business owners apply for loans,” he continues.
While digital innovation will help to remove many of the hurdles, Mkhize also believes that the importance of the human touch should not be forgotten.
This is why Absa provides 24/7 support, a branch network and small business bankers across the country.
In its quest to truly deepen its relationships with SMEs, Mkhize believes that Absa must get closer to the action.
Absa’s small business advisers will be spending a lot more time out in the field, visiting small businesses and talking to entrepreneurs to gain a better understanding of the challenges that they face.
Mkhize says this initiative will grow the bank’s ability to help co-solve problems and help businesses to rebuild and grow.
To further bolster its commitment towards SME clients, Absa announced its Small Business Friday campaign – during which Absa Rewards clients who shop at participating Absa SME merchant outlets on Fridays, will earn double cash back when paying with an Absa card – thus encouraging South Africans to support SMEs.
Absa’s SME clients will be profiled on a dedicated small business portal and receive Cash Rewards when they reach certain milestones across their Absa card point-of-sale devices for the month.
“Beyond the loan, our tools and services available digitally are designed to make day-to-day banking operations easy – and we want to connect SMEs to an ecosystem which provides support, advice and opportunity.”
“If our SME clients succeed, so do we,” Mkhize concludes.