By Cary Springfield – email@example.com
Nations across the African continent have been undergoing major phases of developmental change over the past decade. Zambia, historically reliant on its agricultural sector, has seen significant economic progress over the past few years—in particular with significant progress and transformations across the agricultural industry. The political landscape is also changing positively, and this combined with an acceleration of industrialisation across the continent that has spread from the regional powerhouse of South Africa, is setting up Zambia for substantial economic progress over the next few years. Zambia is developing a greater number of ties with trading nations both within and outside of the African continent’s borders—stimulating investment and business activity on a broader platform. Underpinning its plans for infrastructural development and social support is the government’s intention to provide greater levels of national support over the coming years in order to help fuel growth sustainably into the future. Growth over the coming years will also rely on strengthening the labour market—diversification out of rural industries will require a broadening of the general population’s skillset combined with improved infrastructure so that individuals and businesses can access and capitalise upon new opportunities as they arise. The changes that have been taking place over the past few years have been supported by a growing and developing banking and financial-services sector. Likewise, to secure stable economic development, the banking sector across Zambia will need to innovate and evolve to keep pace, as well as capture and support the opportunities over the horizon as the parameters of the marketplace continue to develop.
Zambia National Commercial Bank Plc (Zanaco) is a renowned and successful key player in the Zambian banking sector. Founded in 1969 by the Zambian government, Zanaco was set up specifically with the purpose of stimulating national development and providing economic empowerment to the people of Zambia. Over the years, the bank has become recognized as the leading bank in the market —gaining prominence and success due to its unique capabilities that distinctly set it apart from its competitors. By applying expert knowledge of the local market with the widest-spanning national-branch network, Zanaco now boasts the largest customer base nationwide. At the core of the bank’s operations is the vision and mission of “banking the unbanked” population of Zambia—providing access to effective banking services to the mainstream public, especially targeting access for rural households, which are historically underrepresented and underserviced by the African banking sector, despite representing huge proportions of the population. The most recent FinScope survey aimed at measuring access, usage, perceptions and the demand patterns on financial services offered in Zambia indicated that only approximately 33.7 percent of the adult population in Zambia was served with banking and financial services—leaving around two-thirds without access. Zanaco is focusing on the remaining 66 percent, the unbanked populations in both rural and urban Zambia, and is reaching these segments strategically through a wide branch network combined with distribution channels spread across all 10 provinces of Zambia, making the bank’s network the largest in the country.
The bank has also come to be known as the “People’s Bank” and “Citizens’ Owned”. With more than 5,000 Zambians as shareholders and more than 850,000 as customers, Zanaco services the largest number of customers both in rural and urban areas of Zambia. One of the defining features of Zanaco that has made it a standout success against its competitors has been its work in commercial banking. Zanaco’s approach to commercial banking is unique, and the bank prides itself on its approach of being a bank for all levels of society, looking to serve the banking needs of individuals and businesses of all backgrounds. This approach makes it unique in the marketplace. The bank pays particular attention to the balance between running a successful retail business alongside its commercial-banking department. With a focus on systematic and consistent growth, the bank has been extending its channel network and scope of service since its founding. The bank continues to expand and serve a growing client base year-on-year. In particular, the bank has achieved significant success in the area of commercial banking—based on an approach that combines premier customer service, technological innovation and first-rate human-capital application and development at all levels of operations.
The bank has become a dominant player in the banking market when it comes to serving the needs of small businesses—such as small-and-medium enterprise (SME) customers, more than 20,000 Lima Credit Scheme (small-scale farmers) and large-scale commercial farmers, as well as emergent farmers in the food and agriculture sector. In addition, the bank continues to work tirelessly for the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) in addition to corporate organizations with whom vital and long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships have been developed in efforts towards helping to include the unbanked communities across Zambia in the financial marketplace.
In serving its core customer segments, Zanaco ensures that it develops a growing and sustainable business, achieving stable financial results that keep stakeholders happy and comfortable with the performance levels of value creation of Zanaco. Renowned as an innovative leader in the Zambian banking market, the bank has achieved its success based on an operational culture that promotes superior customer satisfaction at all levels of the business. With a commitment to becoming the most improved in customer service amongst its competitors by 2016, Zanaco puts excellent customer service at the core of its banking functions. The bank focuses its service and product provision on customer orientation and has grown to the point of offering a diverse and comprehensive range that serves customers effectively and efficiently. As part of its ongoing efforts to innovate and improve in meeting evolving financial needs, the bank conducts training targeted at developing staff skillsets—with particular focus on customer service and the ability to identify the best products and services for given needs. Having quality customer service as one of the key focus areas at Zanaco has resulted in the inclusion of customer-service-related key-performance indicators in staff appraisals. In addition, “Service Level Agreements” have been implemented and signed to ensure staff understand and appreciate the value that quality customer service brings to the organization, both internally and externally. Zanaco recognises the importance of quality customer service and understands that high-calibre service to customers is a critical differentiating factor in today’s business world. Over the past years, the bank has identified the failings in customer-service delivery and has gone on to implement plans directed at improving in these areas. The bank restructured during a phase of privatisation and at this time implemented a bespoke customer-service business unit with specialised staff tasked with taking care of corporate and retail customer-service demands. In addition to this, a call centre was set up to enhance levels of service and customer contact. More recently, during 2014, Zanaco invested sizeably in its core banking system to enhance the quality of customer-service delivery and continues to stand out against its competitors in this area. The bank takes care to keep customer satisfaction a top priority—taking on board feedback and adapting and evolving accordingly. As an example, significant progress has been made by ensuring that all branches have customer-service representatives available to serve customers and ensure that service standards are adhered to. The bank has extended working hours to allow more time, convenience and accessibility for customers to conduct their banking business. In addition, old ATMs have been replaced with new ones based on customer feedback, amongst other effective changes.
Zanaco has kept pace with providing innovative technological solutions when it comes to serving the needs of its clients. The bank is committed to continuously leading innovation in banking products and services in order to stay ahead of the market, and this has led it to embrace the use of technology in its product offerings. In particular the bank is actively developing its online banking operations. As part of this progressive technological work, Zanaco has been striving to increase the number of automated processes involved in providing banking products and services—to enhance service efficiency to the best possible extent. Zanaco offers its customers advanced solutions and modern banking, and it keeps in mind at all times the need to balance convenience through technological solutions with the face-to-face interactions customer also often require, provided through its network of branches. The electronic banking (e-banking) platform offered by Zanaco forms the core of its banking services and offers the application of technological concepts, techniques, policies and implementation strategies to its banking services. This platform is vitally important for local and global competitiveness—especially given that technology has continued to change the way that banking and corporate relationships are implemented and organized across the globe. The bank has also identified that IT (information technology) developments additionally help spur on innovation in the area of service delivery, and Zanaco therefore continues to increase the use of technology in all sectors of its banking operations.
Into the future, Zanaco will play a central role in economic development across the Zambian nation—helping individuals, businesses and government officials with banking and financial-services needs. GDP growth is forecast to be 7 percent in 2015 for Zambia, and this will most likely include the growth of the Zambian banking sector—and Zanaco specifically. The sectors identified to be contributing most significantly to GDP growth are well supported by Zanaco—including construction, agriculture, SME and retail—and these segments constitute an integral part of the bank’s strategy. By supporting these sectors as they expand and develop, Zanaco will also grow whilst also achieving its core goal of empowering customers so that they may be active players in the economy and help the Zambian economy to move stably and sustainably into the future.
The bank has grown consistently from strength to strength since 2007 and was recently acclaimed as the strongest bank in the country, out of 19 banks with capital of more than 580,000 billion—growing at a cumulative annual growth rate of 30 percent over the last seven years. This sturdy and impressive growth has cemented the bank’s “Top 3” position in the market. The share price and investor activity in Zanaco has been responsive and reflective of this strong and steady business and financial performance and indicates positive, confident investor sentiment for the bank into the future. The bank has set in place plans to expand its range of products and services and additionally will look to offer more competitive services to individuals and companies, whilst maintaining a strategic focus on high standards of customer service. By maintaining focus on these goals, the bank is forecast to increase its reach, effectiveness and efficiency as well as bottom-line performance over the coming years.