How South African banks are using tech to improve their products

Technology has become a key part of modern banking, with developments like online banking greatly improving consumer experience and efficiency.

Other solutions such as cardless payments are also gaining popularity – including apps like Samsung Pay, Snapscan, Zapper, and FNB Pay.

However, these front-end technologies are not the only way that banks take advantage of technological advancements.

MyBroadband asked South Africa’s leading banks about how they are using technology to streamline and improve their businesses.


“At Capitec we aim to be the world leader in the application of machine learning to retail banking and consumer finance,” said head of digital and data solutions Graham Lee.

He explained that there are three areas where Capitec is currently applying machine learning:

  • Understanding the client as an individual – which is mainly focused on segmenting clients, classifying their transactions, and other information flows.
  • Improving existing models already being used in business – for example, credit scoring models.
  • Automation of processes. This does not mean the replacement of humans with an automated process, Lee explained, but rather augmenting humans. “The value of this for us at Capitec is that our staff are able to do a lot more efficiently, while providing a quality service,” said Lee.

“We will continue to apply machine learning as the industry grows, as our techniques develop and as the quality and quantity of our data improves,” said Lee.

“With this we will get much better outcomes, and our outcomes will always be focused on our clients, on reducing the cost and frictions from our clients’ financial lives and supporting them with all of the services they need.”



“Absa is exploring a number of technologies that we believe have the potential to fundamentally transform how banks create value for customers, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data, as well as cloud and distributed ledger technologies (DLTs),” said Absa virtual channels managing executive Aupa Monyatsi.

“AI has the potential to drive significant internal automation, which reduces the cost to serve customers – a saving that can be passed on accordingly,” Monyatsi said.

“Cognitive AI technologies such as facial recognition, voice recognition and chat bots (all of which are currently in use or being worked with, at Absa) make it possible for individuals, particularly in under-served communities, to engage with the bank remotely and securely, thus eliminating the need to travel to branches or call contact centres for services.”

Monyatsi also highlighted that while distributed ledger technologies (DLT) are most widely known to be used in cryptocurrencies, the technology provides broader opportunities – specifically in digital identity management.

“Self-sovereign identity means that people and businesses can store and update their digital identity data in an identity ‘wallet’ on their own devices, and share it efficiently and securely with those who need to validate it,” said Monyatsi

He explained that this technology has the potential to streamline and optimise the banking process by lowering transaction costs, protecting people’s personal information, limiting the opportunity for cybercrime, and simplifying identity challenges.

Monyatsi said that in August last year, Absa became the first African bank and the second company in Africa to join the Sovrin Foundation as a Founding Steward.

He added that this will enable Absa to build sophisticated self-sovereign digital identity capabilities for its employees and clients.

Absa logo


FNB plans on equipping around 10,000 service staff in its branches, contact centres, and private banking suits with mobile tablet devices, enhanced WiFi, and data.

FNB Retail CEO Raj Makanjee said that this technology will be equipped with “world-class biometrics-driven capabilities” to ensure that the information of customers is analysed instantly, comprehensively, and securely.

“With the customer’s consent, we can now populate customer information in a significantly shorter period and more importantly, customer information is protected through enhanced security protocols,” said Makanjee.

“So far, we have close to 500 branches that have started using our new model of servicing customers.”

According to Makanjee, FNB wants its customer service agents to increasingly offer money management advice to customers by using these platforms and digital tools.

“In a market where some customers still prefer human interaction, it’s vital to have trained staff who can still service those customers using technology to improve efficiency,” he said.

“Our service consultants play an important role in this regard and we are increasingly seeing the digital and human interaction becoming major differentiators in this increasingly competitive environment.”

iPhone 6S FNB

MyBroadband contacted Standard Bank and Nedbank, but neither bank responded by the time of publication.

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How South African banks are using tech to improve their products