Why your business should go digital according to Absa

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Startups are often seen as the cool kid on the playground of business, but here’s a secret we learned at Leaderex: any business can emulate these plucky entrepreneurs.

So says Brett StClair, head of digital management at Barclays Africa, who outlined how Absa shifted from a traditional bank to something that resembles a startup with a culture similar to that of Google.

StClair explains that it doesn’t help a business to simply look around at what other businesses are doing and emulate them. Rather, a business should be looking at trends in the market.

For starters, there has been a massive shift to instant messaging services such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Absa leveraged this rise in cheap, ubiquitous communication to its benefit when it launched the world’s first banking chatbot.

This sort of “leap of faith” is made less risky by the fact that technology has come to feature a lot more interoperability. Consider how Uber and Google Maps work together.

The same can be said for cloud computing, which has made it easier for business to adopt an agile development model as regards bespoke software.

But digitisation is about more than just adopting technology, according to StClair. “At Absa we started to focus on human-centred design, which is about asking what problems am I going to solve for my customers today.”

This philosophy can be seen in the Absa banking app, which has evolved from an eyesore into a sleek product. The website has been given a similar treatment in a bid to make accessing your bank account a lot more enjoyable, with imagery and callouts that make the customer feel a lot more welcome.

For those that want to jump on StClair’s advice, he offered three tips that should help.

The first tip is to start now; the second is to hire designers that will help you solve problems. The final tip is “Don’t be a dick. Don’t be the person that says ‘ja but…’ Embrace the changing environment,” says StClair.

“If Absa can do it, any business can do it,” he concludes, and we can’t help but agree.


Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.