Client Interview: Standard Bank

By: Fanie Retief
March 2015

FANIE RETIEF

FUNCTIONAL DESIGN LEAD: CUSTOMER
AND PRICING – AFRICA CORE BANKING
PROJECT, STANDARD BANK GROUP

Fanie has a total experience of 12 years in banking of which 7 years has been in Business and 5 years in IT. He is the custodian of the golden copy for design of pricing and customer related solutions. He works with his colleagues at SunTec and Infosys to deliver solutions to Standard Banks business requirements that are in line with the bank’s strategy and policy and that are standardised for scalability across various markets.

In this digital world, customer expectations keep changing. Banks need to keep up without being intrusive. Standard Bank talks about how a bank should react and “seamlessly embed” themselves in the customers’ daily life. Take a look at what Clinton Abbott, Fanie Retief and Arnold Dippenaar have to say about their experience at Standard Bank about how they managed to keep themselves ahead of the competition and remain on the cutting edge of financial innovation.

How do you define ‘customer experience’? What are the key parameters you look at to measure your customers’ satisfaction? 

In two words – “seamlessly embedded”. The ultimate goal for a bank is to be completely embedded within a customer’s daily life, facilitating their engagements and transactions without having them even thinking about it (instant financial gratification). Customers need the bank to facilitate the transfer of value, but that does not mean they need to be aware of the bank’s involvement in each step. The customers’ experience should be measured between themselves and the counter party, and if there is any thought on or breakdown in this engagement due to bank’s processes, then immediately there is an impact on customer experience.

The customer experience should be focused on value transfer, not the transaction that executes this transfer; that is a bank and banking system requirement.

The same holds true for the concept of an account. It is a bank-defined vehicle and not embedded in a customer’s life. Everyday assets and appliances are part of a customer’s life; items such as refrigerators, cars, laptops and mobile phones. If value can be transferred to those items and those items automatically transfer value for purchases such as online shopping and buying fuel or airtime, irrespective of whether we choose to execute those transactions as ACH, SWIFT, RTGS or transfers, then we have truly embedded ourselves within the customer’s daily Life. We enhance their lives without interrupting it.

Enhancing customer experience should focus on ease of use, reliability and security, turnaround time, and user empowerment. Furthermore, it must always be seen as an uninterrupted, focused and dedicated interaction with the customer at any touch-point they might have, be it a complaint, query, account origination or even general advice. Customers have become more time-focused and want instant answers, changing the way we are measured as bankers to that of other service orientated industries. This makes for a truly engaged customer experience.

What according you are the key expectations of the customers from a bank like Standard Bank? How does this vary based on the segment the customer belongs to?

Trust, reputation, integrity, transparency, and humanization. We live in a maximised digital world, where providing support during turbulent financial times is sometimes missed, and thus disengaging our customers. Making things simpler for our customers and gaining their trust and providing robust advice is hard. I believe customers expect banks to know them; after all, they do entrust us to Look after and grow their money, but do they trust us enough for financial advice? Banks are expected to seamlessly support them in their daily lives whenever they engage in value transactions with third parties.

Customers do not want to experience embarrassing situations where bank inefficiencies lead to them not being able to have access to their money. Customers do not want to experience administrative inefficiencies from banks relating to documentation and/or communication; as such inefficiencies create doubt and concerns around the bank’s ability to manage their money safely and responsibly.

As banks, we hold a vast amount of personal data on customers; the least we can do is use this to engage with customers on a personal Level, but at the same time not abuse the trust that this information provides us with. We typically classify customers based on their income; as income is a very good indicator of financial needs and complexity. However, the ultimate expectation is the same across all income groups—enhance my life. For higher income groups the driving force is often convenience and for lower income groups it is the need to be treated with dignity, but they all want banks to assist them in making their Life easier. Their expectations are also that their interaction becomes simpler, better, and faster which helps them in moving forward.

Engaging with our customers on a personal level, identifying with them, and understanding them is key to success.

You were leading the core transformation project within Standard Bank. What were the needs which prompted Standard Bank to go for such a project?

Due to the ageing and disparate core banking systems (5 different coresystems across our estate) of our current core banking estate, the Standard Bank group decided to find a robust core banking system for the African Market. The strategic partnership with Infosys was formed utilising their core banking software called Finacle. What started as a core banking system replacement has morphed into a Transformation Journey. This entails not only replacing the core platform, but also to re-evaluate our value proposition to our customers as well as our internal fulfillment of the high service offering our customers expect. Our design methodology was always based on the fundamentals of build once, benefit to all countries. Our primary “Golden Copy” design ensured that we were able to take Lessons Learnt in one market, adapt and implement in another market seamlessly. This ensures maximum return on investment and an uncontested speed to market. This journey is truly a transformational experience and it is exciting times internally to the bank where everyone has embraced the change and become an innovative partner.

CLINTON ABBOTT

HEAD – FUNCTIONAL ARCHITECTURE
AFRICA CORE BANKING PROJECT,
STANDARD BANK GROUP

Clinton is the Head of Functional Architecture for Standard Bank Africa within the Finacle Core Banking capability. He is leading a team of 10 Functional Architects accountable for the Africa Core Banking Golden copy for 7 countries growing to 17 countries over the lifecycle. He is also responsible for the team of CBAs (Client Business Advisors) who are Business Technology specialists within the core banking area, and provides strategic insight into the offerings and opportunities for system utilization for Africa. As an Innovation Fund Manager, on the board of Innovation Funding within Standard Bank Group, he specializes in “disruptive core banking technology ” utilization. 

Clinton has been with Standard Bank Group for 17 Tears and has worked specifically on Core Banking Technologies for 10 years. Clinton and the SunTec Team share a good relationship for 6 successful years.

 Why did you look for a vendor specifically for the revenue management scope of the project? 

Standard Bank has always been an innovative and progressive bank. Our offerings into the market are the benchmark; and to maintain that level of service and client offering we needed to find a solution that could be easily maintainable and understandable to our customers.

Our primary focus was to ensure that revenue leakage is plugged and identified, but at the same time to ensure that there is a maximum value extraction from both the bank as well as the customers. In our view it is a partnership with the customer, their success is our success. By ensuring that we can manage a cost effective lifecycle offering with our customers we ensure that there is a viable value proposition. Flexibility of the pricing options is the catalyst around a product offering, our view is that products are primarily static, but pricing has to be flexible and adaptable according to the changing climate. Bundled pricing vs. pay as you transact can be tailored for a customer’s needs and adapted from one to the other, or a combination of both.

Why did you choose SunTec? What were the parameters you were looking at to finalize a prospective partner in this space? 

As we have pointed out, Standard Bank is an innovative banking organization; not only we are more than 150 years old, but we are the leaders in our market. When we started reviewing our core platforms it was clear that our pricing offering could not be matched internally in a core banking platform and would need to be managed by a robust external engine. Our requirements were unheard of in the banking industry and we evaluated multiple platforms that could provide our specialized pricing requirements. Items that we have deemed as Standard Banking practice invariably were not industry banking practices. Designs around Location, Channel, Customer, Account, Transaction, Time, value and other variable parameters were complex in nature. We needed to maintain at the very least our current offering to our customers with the ability to future proof ourselves for the next 20 years at least. Hence our decision to partner with SunTec.

This has been an invaluable partnership in that our progressive pricing mindset and SunTec’s cross-industry acumen allowed for our pricing requirements to not only be met, but exceed our expectations for the future, and already grow into new and innovative pricing solutions driven off the capability of TBMS-F. (Currently known as Xelerate)

How have you seen the customer expectations change over the years? Has there been a great shift in the last 2 years? How has the digital revolution impacted customer expectations? 

We have seen a major shift in the customer expectation for banking services. Due to the digitised evolution that has taken place, the need for instant gratification and banking capability has exploded the need to be relevant to the customer experience. In our experience the needs of customer relationship-based pricing has been many times misunderstood by the industry. We believe that knowing the customer intimately and pricing for his direct needs but not negating his growth to wider capabilities is paramount to our success. Competition for the customer has become fierce where Telecom industry players are moving into the financial arena and becoming direct competitors to banks. What differentiates us is our value offering, the speed of gratification linked directly to the speed of fulfillment. Making this a seamless experience is an art, and we are driving to perfect the masterpiece.

Standard Bank has always been ahead of the curve in the banking industry. What goes into making (and maintaining) a leader in this space? 

The Customer experience is the differentiating factor. Banking as it was 10 years ago has made a dramatic shift from the ‘customer following us* to ‘us following the customer’. Knowing their needs is not just at a segment level but directly at an individual, family, extended family as well as workplace need. Being able to cater for this differentiates you as an organization. Being at the leading edge of innovative offerings and being able to capture the market and deliver to our shareholders keeps us relevant. Having the strong Leadership internally with the view of keeping Africa home to us as a bank drives us to be the best not only from an integrity perspective but also a bank with a global footprint and offering a localized speciality to our customer as an individual. The strive for simplicity in a complex world has to be the vision.

What were the major changes that you had to implement within your system as well as business to maintain this leadership position? 

To be honest there weren’t major changes to our business mindset; our leadership has always maintained this growth and innovative offering of not just being a fast follower but also a market leader to our customer. Word of customer is a lot more powerful than a glossy advertisement, offering relevant cost effective solutions and building partnerships with our customers. Our heritage has also ensured that we remain grounded in our offering, building strong foundations and ensuring that we will still remain relevant with their needs as they progress through their Lifecycle, and building on the next generation behind them that they too know we will be there to support them as they grow.

What according to you are the key trends that we need to watch out for in the next five years?

Instant gratification is the biggest trend in our view. The ability to satisfy the customer needs faster than your competitors and at the same time being relevant to their need. Luck is hitting the target once or twice in a row. Mastery is the art of hitting the target consistently and reliably every single time. We strive for mastery.

ARNOLD DIPPENAAR

HEAD OF PRODUCT SERVICES,
PERSONAL AND BUSINESS BANKING
AFRICA (EXCL SOUTH AFRICA),
STANDARD BANK GROUP

Arnold has been in Standard Bank his entire career, totalling 15 years. His roles and responsibilities include handling lending products both secured and unsecured. He also handles transactional and liability products, vehicle and asset finance and bancassurance.

We are also seeing the globalization of the small to medium enterprise across Africa. Seamless payments and multi-currency offerings are expected and becoming extremely relevant when you add the need for fast cross-border payments. Having a global footprint is a minimum entry expectation today. Our customers are globalized; we as a bank have to ensure we are in the same globalized mind set as they are.

Digitization is growing at unheard of rates and we believe that this is the primary access mechanism/enabler for our customers. We operate in an extreme cash intensive society and the goal is to move into an increased digital offering, where remote account opening and cashless transaction offering becomes the preferred method of fulfillment from the customer. But, we should never negate the humanized factor in the digital offering.

How is the relationship with SunTec progressing?

This is a partnership that has strong foundations. We believe in long-term partnerships with companies that are at the forefront of innovations and multi-industry disciplines. Knowledge sharing and cross pollination of experiences has opened our way of thinking even more. Furthermore, the successful execution of these offerings has also ensured that we both remain relevant to our customers. By SunTec understanding our business intimately and giving insight into how we can be more cost effective has ensured that our market Leadership is maintained. Their drive to be the pricing solution leader is one shared by us and we are very happy to have partnered with them on this journey to success.