Fintech Changing The Face of Banking In South Africa

We live in a world where people are not interested in the bank itself but the banking services. Digitalization has made it so easy for customers to just click and transact. Therefore, in a world where the market dictates the terms, banks need to position themselves in a manner that allows them to provide the ideal conditions.

According to an Accenture Strategy research, 66% of customers execute half of their banking transactions online, and 71% are open to automated support. This growing phenomenon has obligated banks to invest in enhancing their digital capabilities, as digital operational fees incur low costs or rather nonexistence costs.

Fintech is changing the face of banking, it is an innovative use of technology in the design and delivery of financial services. However financial technology is not limited to digitalizing bank’s transactional services or loan applications, it has gone as far as online credit score assessments, cryptocurrencies, micro lending and crowd funding.

In fact, we are seeing a growing trend of startup companies offering quick and easy fintech solutions for everyday people, such as the student loans Prodigy Finance is offering based on projected earnings rather than historical credit; the Alibaba’s financial services through Ant Financial; Wonga quick and easy loans; and Capfin partnering with a retail stores for low affordable loans. Banks such as Bank zero, Discovery Bank and TymeBank represent future banks as they are already fully digitalized.

Moving money around is becoming decentralized and less intimidating for the average person, hence the need for human-to-human interaction is aggressively reducing.

South Africa came to a standstill recently when one of the major banks in the country Standard Bank announced job cuts of 1200 and 91 branches to be closed as the bank has decided to focus on a digital banking offering for consumers. This is a global trend where banks are closing some of their high street branches and opting for the digital model.

The most unanswered question is what should happen to retrenched bank employees whose skills are limited to bank services as they have been with banks for decades? What’s the plan of action for the graduates with banking diploma’s and other financial related degrees seeking employment? How are our universities training future bankers?

All that’s been buzzing is reskilling staff and equipping people to be self-employed, but not enough alternative placements for the jobs cuts. I don’t know if people know this, but you don’t just wake up and have a business idea nor do you learn how to run a business in three months. But then again in a world of maximizing profits, no one really cares about individuals.

I won’t lie, as fascinating as financial technology is, it’s a bit hard to be excited due to the brutal job cuts. Banks should be concentrating at turning branches into more advisory services and reskilling for roles that are problem solving in nature. The idea of partnering with local retail stores for financial services especially in the rural area and townships should be enhanced.

According to Yuval Noah Harari, if the world’s weaker states bury their heads in the ground, focus on their immediate problems, and ignore the artificial intelligence race, their fate will be decided in their absence. That is what we are seeing with the branch closures and job cuts, people’s fates are being decided in their absence, therefore, it’s time we create a society in the post work environment and redefine what we classify as work. The world is propelling us to be self-sufficient so let’s respond to the call.


Hoover, C & Macchi, M. (2017): Don’t Bank On Long-Term Survival. Accenture.

Harari, Y.N. (2017): Who Will Win the Race for AI?. Foreign Policy.

Teruel, F (2018): 3 Top Fintech Trends – And Why Digital Identity is a Must for Them All. Threat Metrix.

The Fix (2019): The 4th industrial revolution and the banking sector. eNCA.

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