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South Africa: Absa tops BrandsEye bank sentiment index as Standard Bank slides

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Wednesday, 1 December 2021 13:46

Customers queue to draw money from an ATM outside a branch of South Africa's Standard Bank in Cape Town
Customers queue to draw money from an ATM outside a branch of South Africa's Standard Bank in Cape Town, March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

South Africa’s Absa tops the index of customer banking sentiment published by BrandsEye as the industry grapples with the challenges of implementing digital banking.

Absa had the best score in the survey with an overall net positive sentiment net reading of 0.2%. Standard Bank was overtaken by competitors Absa, Nedbank, and Discovery Bank as its net sentiment dropped by 1.4 points. The worst performer was FNB with a negative score of 18.4%.

Standard Bank, Africa’s largest bank by assets, and other incumbents in South Africa are seeking to improve distribution and cut costs in the face of increased competition from new entrants. The bank can now onboard individual customers by digital means for its low-cost MyMo accounts, but has some way to go before customers are convinced. The survey, based on over 2.7 million social media posts, found that Standard Bank had the most negative digital experience among large banks.

Across the market, customers felt “let down” by banks’ digital offerings. The industry’s overall operational score was -33.1%, dragged down by the digital experience which scored -43.9%. This was largely a result of unstable digital platforms, mainly banking apps, which prevented customers from transacting, so “detracting from rather than adding to the overall banking experience.”

  • Smaller players African Bank and Discovery tied for the worst overall digital experience, while Nedbank had the most positive digital banking feedback.
  • Standard Bank had the worst negative operational net sentiment at -44.9%, while Discovery and FNB, both on -39%, were only slightly better.
  • Standard Bank and FNB faced the most customers threatening to cancel their business account on social media.
  • Standard Bank also had the largest volume of negative comparisons with other banks made on social media, while Capitec and TymeBank had the most positive feedback in industry comparisons.
  • Capitec had a major drop in operational sentiment of 18.6 percentage points from 2020, while attracting the majority of digital experience conversation on social media.

Supervisory issue

Rapid progress made by new banking entrants suggests that incumbents face a race against time to raise their digital game. Discovery Bank and TymeBank, both launched in 2019, both saw significant improvements in 2021.

For Discovery, improvements were operationally driven, while TymeBank moved into top place for reputational sentiment. Discovery’s operational performance jumped 23.9 percentage points, as it moved up to sixth place from eighth in 2020. For TymeBank, downtime was the primary source of risk for the digital bank, as reliance on the app heightened the impact of downtime for customers.

Consumer feedback on social media is becoming a regulatory issue in South Africa. The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) is looking into the fact that only 43% of “priority” tweets received a public response from banks, Kedibone Dikokwe divisional executive for the conduct of business supervision at the FSCA, writes in an introduction to the survey.

  • The FSCA now uses social media, along with mystery shopping exercises, as “a key supervisory instrument” to determine whether products and services provide fair customer outcomes, Dikokwe writes.

Bottom line

South Africa’s banks have an ongoing need for fintechs which can provide user-friendly apps.

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