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Opinion - Trust at the core of new world of banking

2020-10-07  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Trust at the core of new world of banking

Martha Murorua

While the increasing pace of digitisation has been coming for decades, the Covid-19 pandemic unleashed changes that seemed unthinkable just a few months ago and compelled us to make rapid change – faster any organisation could imagine. Various travel and lockdown restrictions on non-essential services, coupled with social distancing rules, obliged many of us to stay indoors – and the volume of online interactions rose while in person engagements plummeted – as expected. 

For an industry that has, for hundreds of years, relied on hand-shakes and a friendly ‘Hello!’ to do business, build relationships and keep customers, this small shift in our reality has massive implications on how we operate going forward. There are many banking functions that may not even be worth the hassle to recreate for the virtual world. 

Many customers have realised that the ‘new banking normal’ is preferential. Online and mobile banking both offer convenience and the generosity of doing banking at your own leisure. These technological advancements are also geography-agnostic (we can do anything from anywhere) and will most likely play a bigger role in our lives even as our movement restrictions ease up.  
A recent MasterCard survey found that 73% of US customers were transacting online, and a fifth of those were first-time users of online banking. In the UK, the closure of bank branches has accelerated by as much as 70%, and Accenture, a leading global consulting firm, believes there could be as few as 800 brick-and-mortar branches by 2025.

Social distancing has moved us slightly apart from each other, as individuals. But, with fewer of us doing things ‘the old way’, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a rather obvious, physical gap between banks and their customers too. 
This means we have to make a number of big changes, very quickly, if we want to maintain our relevance in their lives. This realisation also underpins the technological innovations that Nedbank Namibia has brought to market, including the introduction of IdentityToday, a technology platform that allows you the convenience of opening a Nedbank account with a selfie. This is a notion that was previously quite unfathomable!

Why is this so important right now? Because, when we live in an online, always-on, borderless world, price, ease, geographic locations and product will be even more commoditised – and then what will be left? When handshakes are replaced by UX interfaces, and cash is passed over in favour of the more convenient, evolved digital finances, the traditional face of the bank runs the risk of fading into the background and, if we’re not careful, so will those relationships.

Trust, faith, confidence, belief – call it what you will. The fact remains that this is the most important asset banks have at their disposal if they want to stay in business. It’s incredibly fragile - built over years, and destroyed in seconds - which makes it even more valuable. Ever since the first clamshells were handed over in exchange for a decent return, or a new starter-cave at generous interest rates, people have been looking to us to help them, and their families, be more, do more and have more than they could without us – which is a huge responsibility.

They entrust us with so much of their lives. 
As they say, ‘The more things change…’. 
This is more important right now than it ever has been before. And not just because the relationship is changing. As things get tougher, the IMF earlier this year released that  – Africa’s growth is expected to drop to -1.6%, her real per capita fall to 3.9% and according to the Namibian central bank’s last quarterly bulletin, our immediate economic impact will come primarily from reduced commodity exports and impairment of the tourism and transport industries -  people will be looking to us and relying on us all the more. And as per an updated Accenture ‘Purpose Driven Banking Survey’ report, currently, an ever-shrinking percentage of consumers small business owners turn to their bank for advice, which means we have a lot of room for improvement. As money experts, who strive to grow the well-being of our staff, clients, businesses and the greater Namibian society, Nedbank Namibia’s leadership are consistently engaged with all our stakeholders to make a real difference to people’s lives.

When reality is as risky as it has become, and customers are as wary as they are, the safe bets – the banks they trust – will have more pull than anyone else.
Banks and, dare I say all large, central businesses and organisations have a lot of work to do over the next few years. Being digital is no longer an option, and we need to transform. Remote working is a realty, and we need to accept this, and take advantage of it. But, more importantly, if we are going to rebuild our corporate brands, we need to first start, next door, and help our neighbours rebuild their homes, and rebuild the trust that will drive everything from this point on. Trust above all else. The good guys will win in the end. 

*Martha Murorua is the managing director of Nedbank Namibia

2020-10-07  Staff Reporter

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