Digital banking makes physical branches better – FNB CEO


The increasing number of banking customers who use mobile applications and Internet banking leads to a better experience at physical bank branches, according to FNB CEO Jacques Celliers.

Celliers said FNB’s strategy to move customers towards digital banking has resulted in improvements in customer experience and changed the way its physical branches function.

“What is nice about having better tools is that we can now do more with the client at physical branches,” said Celliers.

“A few years ago, our metric for performance at physical branches was how fast we moved through the queue of clients, so we rushed people out of the queue,” he said.

“Nowadays, because our tools enable us to do so much more with the client, our time spent with the customer can be higher.”

Celliers said the bank ensures that spending increased time with customers does not disrupt the rate at which clients are assisted, however.

Changing behaviour

“Our behaviour in branches is changing. People come into the branch and sit for half an hour talking about how to start a business,” added Celliers.

Thanks to the ability to access bank accounts and make payments online, customers can now have a conversation with their bank instead of being rushed out due to high client volumes.

People can now talk to their bank about financing, or how to fund their child’s education, instead, he said.

Celliers said that thanks to digital banking tools, FNB staff can also engage clients in locations like coffee shops and have access to the same tools as they would in the physical branch.

“We have a lot more physical interactions with clients thanks to our digital toolsets,” he said.


Always a need for cash

FNB has consistently pushed new digital banking features to customers, and is constantly expanding the toolset available in its mobile banking app.

“For years now, our game has been to migrate cash to card and digital,” said Celliers.

“You see that as a common theme across all our rewards programmes and other offerings.”

He said FNB has seen consistent improvement in the adoption of its digital offerings over the years, but the need for cash will never go away.

“I don’t think you will ever get rid of the cash component, because for many years people have valued the anonymity of physical currency.”

Customers who use cash for a smaller proportion of their activities, however, are more efficient than those who largely use physical cash.

This means if customers use less cash for their activities than a competitor’s customers, FNB has the more-efficient customers.