1 November 2012
South Africa’s First National Bank (FNB), a division of FirstRand Limited, was named the world’s most innovative bank of the year at the 2012 BAI-Finacle Global Banking Innovation Awards.
Announced in Washington, DC on 10 October, the BAI-Finacle Global Banking Innovation Awards were chosen from more than 150 entries from over 30 countries “for breakthrough innovations that positively impact banks and their customers”, the awards website states.
Now in their second year, the awards are run by BAI and Infosys, with winners chosen by an independent panel comprising “prominent industry thought-leaders, academics and retail banking professionals” from around the world.
The panel praised FNB’s innovative culture, noting that the bank runs an internal competition that formally encourages and supports innovation, empowering business units within the bank to innovate through leadership buy-in and advocacy.
“Effectively, every employee can be an innovator and can change the way we conduct business,” FNB CEO Michael Jordaan said in a statement. “This is an inversion of the historical top-down application of corporate strategies.
“With the concept of innovation we have created a far-reaching ethos of creativity, and we can see colleagues across Africa and India applying themselves to their jobs with a heightened sense of insight and innovation.”
The bank’s eWallet, a mobile money transfer solution launched in 2009, was also named as a finalist in the Product/Service Innovation category of the competition.
The eWallet service allows customers to send money to anyone in South Africa with a valid mobile phone number. Funds can be transferred instantly, and the recipient receives a text message indicating that funds have been sent to their mobile phone.
The recipient is then able to withdraw cash at FNB ATMs, buy pre-paid airtime or electricity, send money to another phone, purchase and/or get cash at selected retailers, as well as make once-off payments.
In April, FNB announced that more than one-million eWallets had been created, and over R1.6-billion paid into them, since the launch of the service.
In July 2011, FNB followed up on eWallet by launching the FNB Banking Application, an “app” that gives users of smartphones and tablet computer devices easy access to their accounts online.
Since then – and with most of FNB’s competitors following FNB’s lead in launching their own apps – the bank has regularly added enhancements to widen the app target audience and give customers more functionality.
The latest enhancements, announced this week, enable FNB customers with smart phones or tablets to register and use the Banking App without the need of a pre- existing online banking profile.
“This latest development will enable us to extend the reach of the App to all FNB customers with a smart device, and not just those registered for online banking,” Farren Roper, head of FNB Connect ISP and Business Operations, said in a statement on Monday.
“With South African smart device penetration consistently on the increase, and with FNB doing its part to facilitate smartphone and tablet take up even faster, we are accelerating the growth of our App base.”