South Africa’s largest bank turns 20

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Capitec has dramatically grown its banking clients, attracting a more diversified group, appealing to clients across all income groups. (Image: Supplied)
Capitec has dramatically grown its banking clients, attracting a more diversified group, appealing to clients across all income groups. (Image: Supplied)

After two decades, Capitec is:

  • South Africa’s largest bank with over 15 million clients
  • South Africa’s largest digital bank
  • The leader in affordable banking, saving consumers close to R20 billion per annum
  • The world’s third strongest banking brand
  • Forbes’ Best Bank in South Africa (2020)

20 years ago, on 1 March 2001, Capitec Bank opened the doors of its first 55 branches. Fast forward two decades and the bank has grown into the country’s largest, with over 15 million banking clients. Their entry transformed the entire banking industry, saving consumers an average of R20 billion per year, as other banks were forced to lower their fees.

Capitec’s popularity is driven by its challenger approach of questioning the norms of traditional banking. Their laser like focus on their principles of simplicity, affordability, accessibility and personalised service have led them to launch products firmly centred on the needs of consumers.

When other banks steadfastly closed at 3pm, they asked, “Why not stay open until 5pm?” The bank pioneered technology such as finger print biometrics that allowed clients to be verified against the Department of Home Affairs database in real time. It’s still at the forefront of innovation today, as is evident in Capitec being South Africa’s largest digital bank.

The bank’s footprint now extends across South Africa, with over 840 branches and offering employment to over 14 500 employees. It’s a true home-grown success story. 

“We are proud to have created a bank for all South Africans. We believe that banking should fit effortlessly into our clients’ day to day lives, taking up as little time and money as possible. We’ve created a simplified, affordable solution underpinned by industry-leading technology and personalised service that appeals to South Africans from all walks of life,” says Gerrie Fourie, chief executive officer of Capitec.

Now out of its ‘teens’, Capitec remains focused on digital disruption. Helping to spearhead South Africa’s shift towards a digital economy, a trend amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, Capitec has welcomed over a million new app clients in the last 6 months and now has over 5.1 million active monthly app users. This is also the result of years of consistent digital innovation, driven by consumer relevance, rather than innovation for innovations sake.   

The bank launched online banking in 2008 and cellphone banking in 2009. It was also the first to offer biometrics in branch that same year. It released its mobile banking USSD platform in 2011 and its app in 2014. 2019 was a big year, with the launch of their redesigned banking app, new vertical card and Send Cash functionality. Livin’ it Up was also released – a free to download game helping consumers test and grow their money management skills. 

Last year, digital adoption soared as people sought safer ways to transact via online offerings. Responding to client needs, Capitec launched its first-ever virtual card and released its biometric eSignature service, allowing all documents to be signed digitally, this completed its journey to becoming a paperless bank. It also partnered with EasyEquities to enable convenient, affordable investing through its app, which has seen over 70 000 clients register for the widget in just 4 months.

Going forward, Fourie says the bank will continue to benchmark itself against goliaths like Alibaba and Amazon. It is interested in plug-and-play FinTech opportunities that could further simplify and personalise banking.

In recent years, Capitec has dramatically grown its banking clients, attracting a more diversified group, appealing to clients across all income groups and aims to continue doing so, to drive its transactional income.

Fourie adds, “South Africans from all walks of life are continually reaching out to us, asking us transform other areas of financial services. Most recently we launched our home loans offering, which was based on countless requests. We asked, how can we apply our principles of simplicity, affordability, accessibility and personalised service and redesign an age old product? We now offer a home loan application process that takes less than 5 minutes, requires no documents to commence and is fully digital.”

The bank’s diverse client base is also testimony to their consistent approach of not discriminating against clients based on their income groups. The bank doesn’t give clients different tiers of banking or benefits based on their income. Everyone gets the same great service and pays the same affordable fees. Fourie asks, “Why pay more because you earn more?”

“We have always had the drive to do things differently. For us, it’s about agility and innovation. Consistency, not complacency. Challenging the norms. We’re looking forward to continuing to drive change within financial services this year with a number of new digital products.” 

“We’ve had an incredible two decades, and I would like to thank our whole Capitec team. We’ve create magic because of their passion and commitment. I would also like to thank our clients and partners, we could not have done it without you. It is a privilege to be able to help so many South Africans simplify their banking so that they can live better.”

This post and content is sponsored, written and provided by Capitec.

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