There has been a lot of discussion on the ascendancy of digital approaches in all facets of society. This has been of particular focus now given the incidence of lockdowns all across the world. The prevailing status quo has forced many players to seriously consider going digital. The rationale is quite clear – to stay afloat as a business you have to go online. There, of course, has been appreciable progress regarding the uptake of digital solutions to local problems. However, the rate of uptake has been slow due to many factors. It is ironic really how the COVID-19 is making people go digital – something people should have done ages ago. In this article, I shall be talking about BancABC’s digital branch.

BancABC Launches BranchX

It has been apparent that the banking industry has fallen victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for precautionary measures has forced banking institutions to downsize operations. The customers themselves have been adversely affected by being subjected to a lockdown. The prevailing scenario is that physical visits to banks have plummeted whilst online transactions have spiked. In a bid to circumvent and or manage this whole dynamic BancABC has resolved to launch a virtual bank titled BranchX. Bear in mind that this is a first in Zimbabwe. Here is the statement that was issued by BancABC at the launch of BranchX recently:

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world does business. No matter what industry you are in, there is an urgent need to review how we offer products and services to customers if we can no longer interact in person. We are excited to launch our virtual branch named “BranchX” (a branch of the future) to give our customers a digitised service with a human touch as part of our SIMPLIFIED customer service experience. Whilst in the short term our team we are unable to open branches under the current lockdown, our virtual branch allows us to provide uninterrupted service to our customers in the comfort and safety of their homes.

How The Virtual Branch Works

This digital BancABC branch will operate through two ways namely, video banking or telephone banking. A customer can call 08677008667 to get assisted by an agent with the virtual branch. Alternatively, customers can do voice or video calls using Skype to interact with an agent. In due course, there are plans to also include WhatsApp video calls. Some of the things that customers can do through BranchX are internal transfers, RTGS payments, enquiring balances, paying bills, remittances and so on. This is an unfolding development and BancABC has indicated that they will add more features as time progresses. You can kindly visit the BancABC Facebook page for more details. You can also visit their website to learn and enquire more.

The Ever-Growing Relationship Between People And Technology

As the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) continues things are moving quite fast. Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic is somewhat accelerating the pace of technological advancements. It is a murky domain though because there are upsides and downsides. Let us consider this BranchX example as I highlight some talking points. The first thing to note is that digitization entails aspects to do with cyber-security – it becomes a major issue of concern. The success of a digital product rollout is heavily dependent on ensuring that cyber-security is watertight. Another issue of concern becomes that of access – how many people can comfortably access such a virtual branch? We are looking at metrics like internet connectivity, electricity availability, access to internet-ready devices, digital literacy and so on.

Remember I mentioned about contacting the agent through Skype; not many people can do that. Then we can also explore the dynamics of human resources. There is no doubt that some jobs might be lost though of course existing ones can simply be redefined. Redefinition can be done through retraining or reassignment or a mix of the two. At the end of the day, it is apparent that there are benefits that will accrue to both the bank and customers.

There is a bone of contention on whether digitization is a good or bad thing. Overall, it boils down to the trajectory an institution wishes to take. An institution can roll out digital products whilst ensuring jobs are preserved, profits are made and value plus convenience is created for the customer.