Absa Bank Zambia PLC is part of Absa Group Limited, an African financial services group that aims to be the pride of the continent. Formerly known as Barclays Bank Zambia PLC, the Bank has operated in Zambia for over 102 years. The Bank rebranded to Absa on 10 February 2020. Absa is a truly African brand, inspired by the people it serves and determined to always be brave, passionate and ready so that the Bank can make the African continent proud and bring possibilities of its people to life.
How is Absa Bank Zambia PLC working towards becoming the pride of the continent?
Absa Bank Zambia PLC is an award-winning commercial bank that has been serving the financial needs of the Zambian population since June 1918. The Bank is a wholly owned subsidiary of Absa Group Limited (AGL), a well-capitalised banking group listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).
With a strong heritage anchored on local, pan- African and international knowledge as well as a legacy of providing innovative banking solutions with a number of industry firsts, Absa is well positioned to be the Bank of choice of the continent as it aims to provide revolutionary products and services that stem from its wide success of previous accomplishments such as being the first bank to distribute the newly independent Zambian currency at its Ndola Branch in 1964 following the country’s independence. The Bank also launched the first Debit Card and ATMs in Zambia in 1996 and thereafter the first cash accepting ATMs in 2010. In addition, the Bank launched the country’s first Kwacha Credit Card and subsequently the first mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) in the country in 2016 revolutionizing convenient banking. In 2018, the Bank was first to provide online insurance premiums.
Following the announcement of a change in operating name from Barclays to Absa by June 2020, the Bank also adopted a new strategy focused on being a digitally-led organisation.Over the last three years, Absa Zambia have invested over ZMW 100 million in technology to enhance the banking experience of its customers. This has resulted in the Bank having the largest network of intelligent ATMs with deposit-taking, bill payment and funds transfer capabilities. Through a strategic partnership with mobile network operator MTN Zambia and Fintech company Jumo, the Bank introduced the award-winning KONGOLA, a lending product and KASAKA, a savings product that allows customers to borrow and save funds respectively on their mobile wallets.
As a key player in the growth of the economy, the Bank has invested in excess of USD 7 billion in key sectors that drive growth in the economy and continue to look for opportunities to be a key growth partner. Notable projects comprise of infrastructure development financing which include the Eurobonds arrangement and Public sector financing, Agricultural support particularly with the Zambia Sugar (Illovo) expansion project and support to the energy sector through the Maamba Coal Mine project adding 300 MW of power to the national grid. The Bank also extends support to Small and Medium Enterprises through its Business Banking proposition as it understands that this sector fuels the economy.
Absa Zambia has continued to be a key partner in addressing societal challenges by playing a shaping role in society and has invested more than K15 million in the last three years. Some notable projects include donation of the country’s first Dexa machineto the leading public hospital in the Country, University Teaching Hospital. This machine is critical for the diagnosis and treatment of bone-related illness; sponsorship of Zambia’s biggest football tournament which was rebranded from Barclays to Absa Cup giving local players an international platform to showcase their skills; financial literacy for SMEs and adolescents to spur entrepreneurship and money skills among others.
The transition from Barclays to Absa reiterates the Bank’s commitment to continue operating in Zambia and the continent at large, further according it with an opportunity to enhance its services by offering home-grown banking solutions for the thriving African continent.
How widespread is your presence throughout the region?
Absa Group Limited, Absa Bank Zambia PLC’s parent company, has a presence in 12 countries in Africa, with approximately 42 000 employees. Across the continent, the Group has over 1,000 branches and about 10,000 ATMs.
The Group’s registered head office is in Johannesburg, South Africa, and it owns majority stakes in banks in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa (Absa Bank), Tanzania (Absa Bank Tanzania and National Bank of Commerce), Uganda and Zambia. The Group also has representative offices in Namibia and Nigeria, as well as insurance operations in Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
In addition, the Group also has representative offices in London and New York.
Absa Group Limited offers an integrated set of products and services across personal and business banking, corporate and investment banking, wealth and investment management and insurance.
What type of local challenges do you help your clients overcome and how do these solutions add value?
The biggest challenge most clients face in the market is the lack of access to capital. Absa Zambia is currently the biggest lender in the country among financial institutions providing support to key sectors of the economy.
Absa Zambia realises that the biggest challenge most clients face in the market is lack of access to capital to finance growth projects. Lending to SMEs in Africa is also difficult using traditional credit scorecards because of lack of data and insufficient collateral/security. In informal funding markets, rates can range between 20 – 50%, which is not sustainable for the SMEs. The Bank has therefore taken time to understand our corporate and SME businesses, including the entire sector so that it can support their financing needs adequately. Some of the initiatives the Bank has done include tailoring its lending criteria to the SME sector and collateral provision.
Other initiatives include:
- the introduction of Business Internet Banking which allows 24/7 convenient banking
- the SME tool kit, an initiative to assist our customers develop financial statements and business plans in an easier and structured manner
- Supporting value chains that the African continent relies on for growth through conferences like the Africa Procurement Summit.
- Linkages to intentional suppliers of goods and services through SME trips to China
The Bank continues to be a key financier of projects that positively impact the economy like the Zambia Sugar expansion project, the infrastructure projects resulting in the building of various malls in the country and the energy sector where the Bank supported the coal-fired electricity plan in Maamba.
Most recently, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Absa Zambia became the first Bank in the country to announce a Loan Payment Relief Programme in response to the financial impact on a number of economic activities.The Relief Package is a comprehensive solution that applies to the Bank’s credit products, including home loans, vehicle finance, personal loans, as well as commercial asset finance and mortgage-backed business loans. These solutions cut across Corporate, Business and Retail Banking customers to ensure that customers receive adequate support.
With the Zambian society mainly driven by formal employment,Absa understands the growing need to drive an agenda of a more diverse skillset and entrepreneurship. The Bank realises this challenge and has taken deliberate steps to work with different partners to encourage entrepreneurship. Absa Zambia has worked with organisations like the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) to provide business clinics that offer financing advice including generation of business plans through to unlocking access to finance opportunities.
The Bank offers financial literacy education as part of our support to communities it operates in line with the corporate social responsibility agenda. As part of Absa Group Limited, the Bank has identified playing a shaping role in society as a key enabler and remain committed to being a force for good in society.
With Financial inclusion being a topical issue in Africa, what is Absa Bank doing to improve access to financial services?
The Bank has been a major supporter of Government initiatives that encourage financial inclusion. Absa Zambia works closely with the Bank of Zambia to develop and roll-out programmes that are targeted at the underprivileged, unbanked and rural population with limited access to banking facilities.
The bank has partnered with the country’s Mobile Network Operators to allow the public to access and move money from the bank to the mobile phones through the bank-to-wallet and wallet-to-bank services.
The Bank has collaborated with MTN Zambia to ensure that members of the public with mobile phones access banking solutions without using data.
Through the Financial Inclusion pillar, the Bank has developed banking solutions that are market relevant speaking into our customers’ needs. The Bank has developed products like the Ignition Student Account especially tailored for the youth with features such as no minimum balance and free ATM withdrawals to encourage youths to use and have access to banking facilities.
Furthermore, the Bank has the CashSend facility which is a mobile banking platform function allowing customers to send cash transfers to any mobile number in Zambia and the recipient can withdraw from any Absa ATM using the Bank’s cardless services. The recipient does not need to be a Bank customer or have a bank account. Customers can also pay bills and check account status through mobile banking.
In addition, the Bank has collaborated with MTN and Jumo to offer the award-winning wallet services KONGOLA and KASAKA that allows customers to borrow and save on their mobile phones. More than 27 million loans have been disbursed to customers since the product was introduced on the market over a year ago.
What range of financial management solutions do you provide?
Serving about 200,000 customers, Absa Zambia has a network of 34 branches in all 10 Provinces across the country. The Bank has a network of 124 ATMs with cash accepting capabilities and over 2,000 active Point-of-sale terminals. The Bank is one of the largest employers in Zambia’s financial services sector employing over 800 people across its operations.
Absa Zambia offers a diverse range of banking services for individuals, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as well as larger corporates. The Bank continues to be a strong foreign exchange business focused ondelivering a unique product portfolio to support customers’ investment plans. In addition, Absa Zambia has robust digital banking offering transactions easier and convenient.
The Bank’s offering can be categorised as follows:
- Cash Management
- Operational and Investment accounts
- Foreign currency solutions
- Payments, Collections and Channels solutions
- Trade Finance
- Documentary trade that includes Letters of Credit, Bank Guarantees and Documentary collections
- Working capital solutions to include Invoice Discounting, Trade Loans and Supplier Finance
- Debt and Capital Markets as well as Vehicle and Asset Finance
- Sales & Trading, Treasury Services, Wholesale Deposit and Investment Banking
- Africa Access online platform allowing FX spot, forwards and swaps as well as real time execution in local and major currency pairs up to one year forward
What makes Absa bank stand out from other banks?
Our agenda transcends just meeting the financial scorecard. It is about being a force for good in society. We want to bring possibilities to life. As a Bank that has been in Zambia for over 100 years, we have a deep knowledge of the market and are able to tailor solutions suited to this environment.
Absa Zambia is a forward thinking Bank that has exciting propositions to offer customers in Zambia and across the continent. As part of its new brand identity, the Bank has committed to being a digitally-led organisation making extensive investment in technology to meet the ever changing needs of its diverse customer base.
The Bank prides itself in being a pioneer in technological advancements that have revolutionised the Zambian banking landscape. Its long history in the country gives the Bank an advantage based on the heritage and local knowledge of trends. Absa Zambia is a model investor committed to being part of the solution to a number of societal challenges.
Going forward, the Bank remains committed to offering unique business propositions that are relevant to various customer segments so that it truly is a financial partner to help customers achieve their financial needs.
Absa Zambia is committed to complement Government efforts in fuelling sustainable growth in the economy by supporting key sectors that include Mining, Agriculture, Public Sectors, Energy, Manufacturing, Telecoms, Financial Services, Wholesale and Trading.
Financial inclusion remains one of the Bank’s key focus areas so that financial services are delivered to different customer segments in the country through strategic synergies.
As a new brand in Zambia that is customer obsessed, the Bank endeavours to offer an enhanced customer experience.
*For more about Absa Bank Zambia PLC, its products and services, visit www.absa.co.zm
Q&A with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder, Centropy PR
Clare George-Hilley is the co-founder of Centropy PR
Global Banking and Finance Magazine recently caught up with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder of fintech and financial services specialist PR agency Centropy, as the company toasts to three years of trading. We asked Clare about what life is like running an agency in the city, the trends she is seeing in the financial services space and what the future holds following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Why did you decide to set up Centropy PR?
I was looking for an opportunity to launch my own agency, both my husband and I had been in the public affairs and public relations industry for over a decade and we thought the time was right to go out on our own.
We could see that the financial services industry was surging, with challenger brands and new technology transforming traditional banks and setting new standards of customer service. There was a huge market opportunity to create and launch a PR agency that could provider first class comms support, alongside a deep understanding of complex regulations such as AML, KYC, and the GDPR. Likewise, many traditional technology firms are diversifying their offerings, to tap into the growing market opportunity posed by the fintech boom.
So, we worked on a business plan, designed a strategy for winning clients and officially launched in September 2017. Within a few months we had a growing portfolio of clients and a thriving business, since that point, we have never looked back!
How is Centropy doing now and what are you plans for growth?
The last three years have flown by and our client portfolio has grown and diversified quickly. We now manage PR campaigns for clients on everything from cryptocurrency, wealth management to payments and trading software.
We’ve also hosted parliamentary debates with key industry figures, including Members of Parliament (MPs) on topics such as the future of the financial services industry and the impact of challenger banks on traditional providers. The team is expanding quickly and we’re investing heavily in the latest training and support to ensure our team members are equipped to reach their full potential.
How do you see the next 12 months?
The Covid-19 outbreak has crippled the economy, forcing millions of people to work from home due to the very serious health risks. The knock-on effect of this crisis will lead to companies cutting costs where possible to save jobs, so tech will play a vital role in ensuring many businesses stay afloat.
We are already working with contactless payments specialists and other fintech companies that offer solutions to help companies survive and thrive despite the inevitable challenges ahead.
We aim to continue building our portfolio of expertise, testing ourselves with new challenges and delivering the best possible service to clients
This is a Sponsored Feature.
Lessons from past recessions and advice for business owners during the coronavirus pandemic
By Neil Davis, managing director and co-founder of Sterling Networks
What is Sterling Networks?
“Sterling Networks is a professional organisation founded in 2014 which facilitates networking events for businesses across the Midlands, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and the South West. Over 300 members attend our fortnightly breakfast and lunchtime meetings.”
What is your background prior to establishing Sterling Networks?
“During the 1990s, I worked in the corporate team for Halifax. My wife, Tracey, and I went onto own a manufacturing business, which was also called Sterling, and produced a range of gifts, merchandise and promotional items.
“We soon realised tradeshows were a great way to meet distributors and clients. From there, the business grew exponentially, and we managed to build a network of around 500 distributors. Eventually, we became ground down by the manufacturing business – in part because the local manufacturing sector was being devastated by competition from China – and took the decision to sell the business and relocate to Spain.
“After spending several years living abroad, we moved back to the UK to set up Sterling Integrity (EXPO’S) & Sterling Networks (Networking) We were inspired by a desire to help businesses make meaningful connections with one another, and we haven’t looked back since.”
The UK has recently entered a recession, brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. What have you learned from past recessions and how are these experiences helping you to navigate the current crisis?
“I’ve lived through a number of recessions and have seen the pain that insolvency causes companies on a large scale. It’s taught me that there are those who win and sadly those who lose, and that businesses must adapt to a rise in demand for certain products or services at a time of financial crisis.
“Given the nature of what Sterling Networks offers [an opportunity for business owners to connect and grow together] I decided we could build upon the brand due to the demand for new business during the pandemic. We therefore moved our networking events from face-to-face to virtual via tools like Zoom and have gained a steady stream of new members in recent months, reaching an overall total of well over 300.
“On top of that, we’ve taken new staff on during the crisis and have launched a number of new regional groups across the country. I was determined that Sterling should come out of the pandemic with a head start, so my attitude to the recession has been much more positive than those who are forecasting nothing but doom and gloom.
“We can’t pretend high street retail wasn’t suffering long before the pandemic came along, and thousands of new businesses are sure to start up to meet the demand for the products and services that people require at a time such as this. In order to develop and grow businesses need to focus on where changes need to be made to meet this demand.”
Sterling Networks has been providing emotional support to its members throughout the pandemic. What advice have you been giving to members that could be useful to other business owners?
“I try not to be too opinionated and respect other people’s views when giving advice to members, as there are always two sides to every circumstance. I’ve been careful not to say to people that they should be doing one thing or another, as I don’t know their business and its needs quite like they do. The only thing that I have been telling members is the importance of setting up one-to-ones with one another. By doing so, they can listen to the needs and concerns of other, like-minded business owners and work out ways that they might be able to help one another.
“The pandemic has meant we all have a bit more time on our hands, so the advice I would give to people is to use this extra time wisely. Not having to travel physically from one meeting to another means there is a greater opportunity to connect with more people. It’s important to remember that individuals outside of your business can be just as valuable as those within it.”
What makes you hopeful for the future and are there any words of encouragement you can give to budding entrepreneurs?
“The key events that have happened to this country during my lifetime – whether wars, recessions, or the pandemic – have enabled me to take stock of things. While these experiences are certainly challenging, we all become stronger for living through them, and it gives me great confidence that the world will ultimately improve as a result of the pandemic.
“The whole world is effectively rebooting right now, as is the business community. I like to think entrepreneurs will recognise this opportunity to take better care of their peers, and this translates to greater collaboration between organisations. Speak to as many people as you can, ask all the questions that you need to and do your homework. This might well be a difficult time for us all but planning for the future must start now if it is to become as prosperous as I know it can be.”
Exclusive Interview with Ugo Loser, CEO of ARCA Fondi SGR
Arca Fondi SGR is a mid-sized Italian active asset management company. Founded in 1983 by a consortium made up of 12 regional banks, the company has grown in time, expanding its network of distributors and its client base. Nowadays Arca manages Mutual Funds, Pension Funds and Institutional Accounts with total AUM exceeding 30 € bln, reaching more than 100 banks and financial institutions and serving more than 800,000 final clients.
What are the key contributors to ARCA Fondi SGR’s success over the past 35 years?
Arca has always put clients and distributors first. That is to say we have always privileged fair pricing for funds and developing high quality products and services for our customers. This requires constant innovation as an objective and looking for people’s talent to be free to produce its effect
Why are people the founding element of ARCA Fondi SGR and how have you sustained this vision over the years?
We work in small teams, people are young and motivated and can perform duties with a high level of autonomy and responsibility. Innovation is asked to everyone, everyday
What makes Arca Fondi SGR different from other asset management firms in Italy?
Arca is a company focused on doing what it can do very well, that is to say mutual and pension funds, services for clients and banks. We never follow short term trends but always look for long lasting impact on the industry, like we’ve done may times in the past
What products/services has ARCA Fondi SGR pioneered?
Arca has been the inventor of “Arca Cedola”, fixed-horizon, coupon paying funds, which have been with no doubt the greatest product innovation of the past 12 years on the Italian market. This type of funds, at first strictly based on bonds and later as a balanced product, has encountered an enormous success both with clients and distributors due to its simple and effective value proposition. Arca is a market leader also in the “PIR” segment of funds, a range of product focused on mid and small sized companies, that have been the best performers in the Italian stock market for the last few years. In services, Arca is a leader in technology applied to asset management. Our website, app and digital services for clients and banks are award winning, state of the art combination of data, technology and channels, and the best is yet to come on this side.
What strategies do you have in place to sustain your market position and withstand professional competition in the country?
As I mentioned, we do not waste resources on projects with dubious results, instead we constantly invest on people, products and services. The high level of profitability that Arca has been able to maintain even in difficult years for the markets of the banking sector is a further testimony that this strategy works very well
How do you use technology to create meaningful experiences for your customers?
First of all, we have created a whole new division, Arca InnovAction Lab, dedicated to technology, data and processes. This ensures projects are delivered quickly and they are free to leave bad past practices behind. Arcaonline.it, Arca’s website, provides distributors with detailed information on clients’ portfolios, asset under management and subscription/redemption requests. It monitors aggregate selling data offering to our partners a suite functions and analytics to track commercial campaigns. And if the banks branches need assistance, they may ask Sara, our digital chatbot. A broad and timely multimedia production, covering exclusive reports, comments, presentations, videos, webinars and newsletters is also available on the website.
Customers, subscribing Arca’s funds through its distributors’ network, may access Arcaclick, a dedicated area on Arcaonline.it. With Arcaclick the client can easily browse through her portfolio of funds, analyze its characteristics, view transactions and historical funds’ performance in customizable views. Arcaclick is also a powerful source of information on Arca product range: Prospectus, KIIDs and other literature is easily accessible along with news, comments and reports. Arcaclick may also be accessed via Arca Fondi App, a free application for mobiles and tables, running on both iOS and Android. Available 24/7 and in mobility, Arcaclick gives clients the opportunity access information, news and details of their personal portfolio anytime and anywhere.
What key trends will drive pension growth in 2020 and beyond?
The Italian market for pension funds is still very small and therefore there is a great opportunity to grow. Arca Fondi manages the biggest open ended Italian pension fund and it’s been constantly at the top of its rankings. As people and workers are looking for yield and to weather short term volatility, the pension fund is very well poised to profit from this trend.
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