5 March 2012

Standard Bank redefining financial inclusion in South Africa



Standard Bank has launched AccessAccount, a competitive, transparent and accessible banking account aimed at providing affordable banking services to South African consumers.

Standard Bank has a long history of being a leading player in creating better access to financial services in South Africa, and this remains a key focus area for the bank.

Peter Schlebusch, Standard Bank South Africa's CEO of Personal and Business Banking, says: "Our strategy has continually been refined based on the lessons we have learnt, allowing Standard Bank to tailor banking for wider sections of the population in ways that are more relevant and accessible to the majority of the market we are trying to reach."

Standard Bank's inclusive market customer base of 5.4-million is set to grow with the launch of the accessible new product as well as innovative channels to bring more South Africans into the financial system.

"We've built on the experiences of our ePlan account, and then the Mzansi initiative, which were our first engagements with inclusive banking. The new AccessAccount will have no monthly management fee, nor will it require a minimum balance, and has a highly competitive fee structure. Importantly, this account provides real value to customers, encouraging them to use it to transact rather than just deposit and withdraw salaries," says Mr Schlebusch.

The pilot has proven to be very successful, with 824 mobile sales consultants selling accounts on a daily basis. Based on the success of the pilot, Standard Bank will be migrating existing ePlan, Value account, and Mzansi customers onto the AccessAccount technology platform in the next few months

Leon Barnard, Standard Bank Director of Inclusive Banking, says: "A key learning from previous products was that, no matter what the income level of a customer is, they want to know that they are getting good value for money. The AccessAccount is therefore not a 'low-income' account, but a high-value account, providing relevant banking services for customers with an income of up to R8 000 a month. It is a product solution along Standard Bank's product continuum rather than a stand-alone 'low income' product, and is an integrated offering including a savings option, loan offering and funeral plan."

Providing access to the financial system has also meant Standard Bank has gotten closer to customers.

Mr Barnard says: "Standard Bank is the first bank in the world on the new SAP mobile origination platform. With a hand-held mobile device, Standard Bank staff are able to open the new AccessAccounts for customers anywhere they may be, with nothing more than an ID and proof of residence. The device allows our mobile banking consultants to interact with customers in their own communities, in their own time and in their own language. In ten minutes, a customer can have an active account, debit card, and is registered for cellphone banking, both inside and outside of our traditional banking environment in a paperless environment."

The initial focus on building low-cost branches in more areas had a limited measure of success due to setup and infrastructure costs.

"It was a very infrastructure-heavy, expensive and formalised way of interacting with clients, and was not always convenient. Mobile origination is not only far more accessible for customers, it is also eighty percent cheaper than traditional origination of an account. Currently Standard Bank opens an estimated 120 000 new accounts in a month," says Mr Barnard.

Standard Bank's cellphone banking drive has been highly successful in a country where at least 83% of the population are active cellphone users. The needs of different LSMs when it comes to self service banking are not dissimilar. Cellphones are the most pervasive technology available to the majority of the population, and cellphone banking is the most relevant way to conduct banking without needing to go rely on traditional channels.

Standard Bank's AccessPoints (Bank Shops) provide even further access. With 10 000 AccessPoints, increasing to an estimated 15 000 by the end of 2012, they are fast becoming familiar points of representation in townships and other underserviced areas across South Africa. Located within existing Spaza shops, AccessPoints provide simple banking services such as cash-ins, cash-outs and money transfers without having to travel into town to an ATM or branch. Customers can also purchase electricity and airtime at these points.

"The AccessPoints have already proven to be a huge success, with increases in balances held at these Spaza shops," says Mr Barnard.

Standard Bank will continue to roll out low cost branches and will have more than 200 by the end of 2012, enabling Standard Bank to make banking more accessible and convenient as the bank gets closer to its customers while competing with market competitors.

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