By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa
WOW. Here is another big one.
LAST month Capitec Bank show-cased its latest branch concept in Stellenbosch (where the company is also head-quartered). The concept is now being rolled out across the country. And an eye-opener it is too.
Key reasons cited by CEO Riaan Stassen for the redesign are common questions asked by consumers about out-dated trading behaviors in the banking industry.
Stassen said, “In our view there are seven points which the public are questioning their banks about”:
• Why do clients still have to fill in forms when they go to a bank in this day and age?
• Why can’t clients see what consultants have on their computer screens before them – it is not a secret?
• Why do banks have glass barriers between the client and the customer – it restricts service?
• Why are branch managers concealed at the back of a branch, hidden away from clients? They should be the custodians of client relationships.
• Why must clients stand in queues just to be told that they have the wrong information or documentation, or that they are in the wrong queue?
• Why do banks close at 3.30pm in the afternoon and not open on Sundays?
• Why are bank fees structured in such a confusing way?
“We live in the 21st century and technology should make access to banking easier for clients. The banking experience needs to change and banks must take ownership of helping clients manage their financial lives better,” Stassen said.
He said the new branch design aimed to achieve this by providing an experience for consumers that takes banking into a new realm. “We want to give clients options that empower them to make the best choices. Our new front end screen flow will do this.”
The front of the new branches are completely open like retail stores such as Woolworths or Edgars. Moreover, as no cash is held in-branch, excessive security found in other banks is not needed.
A strong focus on human interaction and personalised service is also central to the new design. For example, the branch manager sits in the front of the branch to monitor and tend to client’s needs as they arrive. “Top management must be regularly available in the forecourt of branches to better understand how to address the service requirements and needs of customers,” Stassen added.
Clients also sit alongside a consultant so they can view their accounts together on the consultant screen, instead of the bank having ‘exclusive’ access.
“We believe personal interaction and support is very important to consumers. At a time when banks are moving more and more online, making their services faceless and impersonal, our view is that consumers prefer the opposite. This is why we are structuring our bricks and mortar environment to focus on relationship-building and client support, while our virtual channels will continue to be used to primarily provide easy, convenient access to transacting and information,” explains Stassen.
This ‘humaness’ is also evident in the branch’s use of branding and signage: A bold ‘Hello’ wall welcomes clients, while literature is simple, clear and to the point.
“Offering communication in a client’s vernacular is key to their understanding of our product. As such, everything is available in English and the region’s mother dialect,” he says. Capitec Bank employs consultants from the relevant areas to magnify this level of personal service.
Besides the new design features, some of the more traditional ones remain. Among those is the biometric identification system which Capitec pioneered locally in 2004. It uses a client’s fingerprints as verification for his account access, which simplifies service steps, reduces service time and increases security. Another cost saving feature is the absence of a back office in the branch.
“Capitec has grown considerably since its launch in 2001 largely because of its low-fee structure and no-fuss, quick service. We are able to offer this because our processes take place in real-time and there is no back office which reduces our overheads. This benefit is directly transferred to our clients in the form of lower fees,” Stassen confirmed.
With a client base of over three and half million and a strong focus on opening branches in higher income suburbs in coming years, Capitec anticipates its growth among a diverse range of clients to continue.
“We are increasing our presence in higher income areas because our model appeals to everyone, whether you earn R5 000 or R50 000 a month. As such, we plan to roll out another 200 ‘designer’ branches by 2015 largely in suburbia and retail malls or surrounding areas. And because the new branch cost is similar to our previous design to implement, our clients won’t need to absorb increased fees.”