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    #AfricaMonth: Kennedy Bungane champions Africanbank's expansion

    In preparation for its IPO, African Bank has broadened its footprint through strategic acquisitions, including Grindrod Financial Holdings and UBank Ltd., as well as the financial divisions of Sasfin Holdings Ltd.
    Source: Supplied. Africanbank chief executive officer, Kennedy Bungane.
    Source: Supplied. Africanbank chief executive officer, Kennedy Bungane.

    As we celebrate Africa Month, Africanbank's chief executive officer, Kennedy Bungane, business banking chief executive officer, Zweli Manyathi, and chief financial officer, Anbann Chetti delve into the bank's unwavering commitment to becoming Africa's premier retail and commercial bank:

    In what ways does Africanbank support SMEs and startups in leveraging opportunities presented by AfCFTA to expand their businesses beyond borders?

    The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement is very important in order to promote intra-African trade whether it is importing to or importing from African countries. What we focus on in the bank is the domestic leg of the funding. We are more than happy to assist all of our SME customers who want to leverage the opportunity presented by this agreement in order to be able to fund the domestic piece of the transaction they want to do.

    Could you speak to Africanbank's IPO and how does this contribute to robust cross-border trading?

    The IPO office is well underway. We are delighted to announce the successful completion of Phase 1, which involved selling down 10% of our shareholding from all of our current shareholders to initiate the process. This has boosted morale, it has boosted a strong message of ownership by staff, and adds to our adage of being a bank for our people.

    We are now busy with Phase 2 of the IPO and we will have a look at similar de-risking initiatives for the IPO as and when we are ready. We will elaborate further on what Phase 2 entails shortly, but our aim is to achieve it in 2024. We aim to list at a time when we have addressed factors such as BEE, management, and staff alignment, which are currently our top priorities

    Once listed, we will have a bank that has access to capital allowing us to bank customers, to back the franchise in their ambitions, to take advantage of things like the AfCTA and grow their businesses beyond borders.

    Our IPO aims to change our shareholder base and enhance our access to capital, enabling us to seize forthcoming opportunities.

    Are there any more acquisitions on the horizon for Africanbank?

    Acquisitions were never our initial objective. Our primary focus is on executing our Excelerate 25 strategy, emphasising growth and diversity while enhancing scale and scalability across our operations. Our aim is to accelerate the growth of the business, transitioning from a monoline micro-lender to a fully-fledged retail and commercial bank, ensuring sustainability through diversification.

    To achieve that we've got to work with what we've got. We're blessed to have capital, liquidity surplus, to have the board support and a show of support to pursue both organic and inorganic opportunities as and when they appear.

    The acquisition of UBank has significantly bolstered our consumer banking arm, while the acquisition of Grindrod Bank has provided us with a robust foothold in business and commercial banking.

    Having them on board enhances our capabilities across various sectors, including capital equipment finance and commercial property, as well as offering a broader range of products and solutions for our commercial clientele. Acquisitions serve to elevate our offerings and we are thrilled to have these value-added acquisitions as part of our portfolio.

    What has transpired, with the viability of these businesses and their successful amalgamation into a singular bank, has equipped us with the capability to strategically pursue commercially sound, sometimes opportunistic yet aligned acquisitions. We've honed our ability to assimilate and integrate these acquisitions seamlessly, with a critical eye on value.

    This capability remains a cornerstone as we progress along our Excelerate 25 journey. Our focus remains laser-sharp on building a customer-centric, digitally enabled business model that offers a comprehensive suite of solutions, extending seamlessly into the realms of business and commercial banking in South Africa.

    What are the key components of Africanbank's digital transformation strategy and how do they compare with the digital-first approach of ThymeBank?

    Our digital strategy at Africanbank stands out from that of other institutions. We've adopted a unique approach that prioritises understanding the needs of our customers.

    Unlike some institutions, we don't exclusively push people towards digital channels. Instead, we offer a variety of channels to cater to diverse preferences, including physical branches, collectively assisted channels, and our digital platform, ensuring accessibility for both consumer and business banking needs.

    We've devised a journey focused on seamless customer onboarding, emphasising ID verification and maintaining a single identity standard. We only request information that's necessary for each task, ensuring efficiency and avoiding unnecessary inquiries during the lending process.

    Building upon that foundation, we've developed additional capabilities to modernise the bank, ensuring that our processes go beyond merely digitising FICA-based procedures. This digital standard will be implemented across both business banking and consumer services.

    We've embraced an omni-channel strategy that sets us apart from a purely digital approach. This strategy offers customers the flexibility to bank with us through digital platforms—such as phones and apps—or in-person at branches if they prefer face-to-face interactions. Alternatively, they can engage with us over the phone. This approach prioritises customer choice and convenience, allowing them to initiate conversations with us through their preferred channel.

    What are some of the challenges that Africanbank aims to address in the next six months, leveraging Excelerate 25 and data science?

    As a cornerstone of our digital transformation strategy, hyper-personalisation stands at the forefront. We recognise the uniqueness of each customer and tailor our approach accordingly.

    By meticulously tracking and understanding their living patterns and life-stage needs, our IT team crafts propositions and offers that resonate with individual contexts. This alignment ensures that we present ourselves in the precise context of the customer's challenges or aspirations. Data science plays a pivotal role in this endeavor, collaborating closely with our learning and credit teams to ensure the solutions we deliver are not just data-driven but also highly relevant to the needs of our customers.

    It's crucial for us to proactively anticipate our customers' future needs, leveraging both science and expertise. Often, customers may not explicitly articulate their requirements, so it's incumbent upon us to discern their intentions and motivations. As has been highlighted, contextual relevance is paramount—it's not just about providing solutions but doing so at the opportune moment. Building robust data-driven capabilities is key to achieving this.

    Data enablement underpins our holistic approach to addressing customer needs.

    Once approvals have been received please elaborate on the benefits the Sasfin capital equipment and commercial businesses will bring to Africanbank?

    Firstly, expansion is a key benefit. Our customers will gain access to rental and installment finance options, as well as equipment leasing services, thereby broadening our service offerings.

    Secondly, the acquisition provides us with robust systems and a talented team of colleagues who bring valuable expertise to the table. Their experience in the industry will enable us to capitalise on emerging opportunities and meet the evolving needs of our customers effectively. Additionally, it opens doors to new markets and segments, such as those requiring specialised solutions that were previously untapped.

    We eagerly anticipate the receipt of approvals, and our team is poised and ready to hit the ground running.

    About Katja Hamilton

    Katja is the Finance, Property and Healthcare Editor at Bizcommunity.
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