After 160 Years, Standard Bank goes 99% digital during pandemic

A 160 year old bank has gone 99% cashless in South Africa over the course of the pandemic, which gave a push to customers due to lockdown measures. — Bloomberg

Standard Bank Group Ltd. said 99% of its transaction volumes in South Africa are now cashless, a trend that has helped the continent’s largest lender by assets to cut costs.

"It’s extraordinary,” Standard Bank’s Chief Executive Sim Tshabalala said in an interview with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Matthew Winkler at the Africa Business Media Innovators Conversation. "What we’ve seen is an incredible shift to electronic ways of doing things.”

Standard Bank, which dates back to 1862, is seeking to add at least 10 million customers by 2025, and sees technology firms such as Inc., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Uber Technologies Inc. as its biggest competition within Africa.

The pandemic and the ensuing lockdown across the continent coaxed Standard Bank’s customers into switching to digital banking. A tech-savvy youth population in Africa, where many countries often lack financial infrastructure, accelerated the process.

The Johannesburg-based company has been cutting its branches and even floor space at its offices to help cut expenses.

Outside Africa’s most-industrialised nation, digital transactions account for 95% of the bank’s volume, according to Tshabalala.

The transformation of consumer preferences has placed Africa ahead of more developed economies and major emerging markets.

In the US about 82% customers use digital payments – defined to include browser-based or in-app online purchases – according to McKinsey & Co.. Digital payments will account for 72% of all transactions in India by 2025, according to ACI Worldwide Inc.

Standard Bank plans to forge alliances with distribution partners and expand its product offering as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, Tshabalala said. – Bloomberg

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