By Mukwandi Chibesakunda, Chief Executive Officer, Zambia National Commercial Bank (Zanaco) PLC
One of the clearest global trends to emerge since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has been the concerted shift towards digital-banking solutions. This has typically meant that financial institutions with robust, forward-thinking digitization strategies have been best positioned to accommodate this shift seamlessly. Zambia National Commercial Bank (Zanaco) has been well placed to take advantage of this opportunity by pursuing various initiatives towards becoming a fully fledged, digitally enabled market player equipped to overcome the various roadblocks thrown up by the pandemic.
Digitization has also allowed Zanaco to remain accessible to customers during this precarious time through various digital-banking options, which have been available to help them adequately negotiate the “new normal” environment whilst remaining resolute in the face of such unprecedented challenges. In practice, this has largely meant focusing on making banking easy and accessible for our customers and partners. Products such as the market-leading Xapit mobile-banking solution, Xpress agency banking and Xapay payment solution facilitate the reduction of cash handling between merchants and customers, thus helping communities abide by social-distancing norms and regulations.
Financial inclusion is a distinct priority for Zanaco, as it opens countless opportunities to bank the unbanked and provides access to a range of potentially life-changing financial solutions. As we expand the range and effectiveness of our digital offerings, we witness how digitization—particularly through the rapidly increasing numbers who now have access to mobile phones—can robustly support economic growth throughout Zambia.
Furthermore, Zanaco’s digital footprint is exemplified by the fact that we are the only bank within the local market to have set up a dedicated innovation lab, which helps us drive considerable advancement in the products and services that we offer our customers. Given our belief in the critical role digitization will play in the future of financial services, a well-functioning innovation lab is critical to support creativity in this consistently evolving environment.
Innovation is also enabled by acknowledging the exciting solutions that are constantly emerging from the local financial technology (fintech) sector. As part of the Zanaco Group, Digital Shared Services Limited (DSSL), jointly with various strategic partners, has built a digital marketplace, which offers solutions tailormade for the Zambian market. DSSL recently developed the Virtual Farmers Market marketplace app for farmers in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme. As one of the partners in this initiative, Zanaco has added the innovative AgriPay Farmer solution to the virtual app, thus providing farmers with access to local markets and the option to send and receive payments using a single multilateral platform. Such solutions will undoubtedly go a long way towards supporting financial inclusion.
As Zanaco, it is essential for us to unequivocally state that our customers can utilise our various offerings safely and conveniently. With that in mind, our dedicated sales teams across the country not only create awareness of available offerings through marketing activities but also take the time to train customers on how best to utilise those offerings. From the moment a digital-banking solution is conceived to the time it is in each customer’s hands, we focus on continuous improvement to make navigation as easy and straightforward as possible.
Zanaco plays a critical role in enhancing financial literacy in the community. Our 10,000-plus Xpress agents have also been pivotal in incorporating business and financial-management training through various workshops and onboarding interactions. Additionally, we have successfully provided education to our SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) customers, alongside a technology SME hub ecosystem for management and financial support to SME clients. Such initiatives also develop and enhance key skills and capacity within the Zambian economy.
As regards internal development, our employees undergo rigorous training to ensure they remain abreast of all the changes on our digital platforms. This is a vitally important endeavour as a well-skilled workforce directly improves our customers’ overall experience and satisfaction from utilising our products and services. This focus on maintaining exceptional standards of digital-banking competency is encouraged throughout the institution.
We have also significantly bolstered our growth prospects by centralising various internal processes, particularly within the transaction-processing office, as part of our digital transformation. Adopting a centralised approach has improved our branch operations by promoting an environmentally friendly, paperless environment whilst also streamlining efficiencies. The establishment of a robust workflow system has resulted in a multitude of service improvements and cost savings for the bank.
Looking into the future, our digital journey remains a key pillar as customer needs evolve. Zanaco will continue rolling out exciting enhancements to mobile banking and other services, including micro-loans and micro-savings, as well as enhancements to e-wallet cash-out services.