ACHIEVING and maintaining universal digital access presents a potential private-sector opportunity of US$1.642 trillion in all emerging markets, such as Zambia.

Digital transformation is no longer an option but an imperative, according to DeepPal Singh, Head of Consumer, Private and Business Banking – Zambia and Southern Africa at Standard Chartered Wealth Management.

Mr Singh indicated that the global Covid-19 pandemic had shown that digital would be central to interactions with consumers and corporates.

“The investment potential in Africa concerning digital access amount to US$74.5 billion, wherein the current access to digital stands at an average of 48 percent.

“Therein lies the opportunity for banking institutions,” he said in his OP-ED on the journey to digitisation of a legacy bank.

He however acknowledged that the potential opportunity was faced with hurdles that would require a mindset shift.

Due to the Covid-19, Mr Singh said, financial sector players were facing business pressures and economic uncertainty, which poses an obstacle for executing complex digital transformations.

He explained that digitising a legacy retail bank in its truest sense was a challenge that very few players had been able to solve.

Mr Singh explained that it required an inflight change not just of technology, but of entrenched structural costs and legacy mindsets.

“Another challenge that most digital banks are facing is the slow path to profitability. This is a multiple-year journey, but by aggressively cutting legacy cost while pivoting to exponential digital-led growth, the timelines to profitability can be brought forward,” he said.

He indicated that dgitisation was one of the key items on Standard Chartered transformation agenda, both regionally and globally.

 In turn, Mr Singh explained, the bank had advocated the introduction of digital banking offerings across key markets in the Africa and Middle East (AME) regions to further reinforce its standing as a progressive, future-forward financial services provider.

“Inaugurated in Côte d’Ivoire in 2018, Standard Chartered rolled out the digital banks across eight additional key African markets, including Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria,” he said.

Mr Singh indicated that the digital banks had also allowed the institution to attract a new audience of consumers, comprising a younger, digital-savvy demographic, with 75 percent of accounts having been opened by consumers below the age of 35.

He stated that this technology platform had enabled the bank to offer retail and wealth products, while integrating with other ecosystem partners.

“To date, the Bank has digitised over 70 of the most popular banking services, to now also providing enhanced services, including QR code and P2P payments, loan and overdraft facilities, instant fixed deposits and bancassurance solutions,” Mr Singh indicated.

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