The global banking industry is changing. As technology continues to redefine the very nature of the financial space, with more and more customers moving away from the physical banking of the past, companies and financial institutions must adapt and innovate with this changing landscape in order to continue to be successful.
In this ever-evolving digital world, the responsibility of the IT function has never been more crucial. This is most certainly the case for Zambia National Commercial Bank (Zanaco), as the company looks to completely reimagine its IT and technology infrastructure in order to better serve the modern banking customer.
“It’s part of my strategy here to make IT far more central to the strategic direction of the bank,” says Frank Banda, Head of IT.
“As the industry becomes increasingly dictated by technology, there has to be a greater code of alignment between IT and the business, so that it moves away from being just a support function and becomes more of a partner to the business.”
Banda, having successfully worked in Information and Technology in the Zambian banking sector for a number of years, has seen first-hand the transformative nature of the industry and recognises that the key driving force behind any IT transformation in banking will always be the customer.
The modern-day customer is more technologically empowered than ever before and expects the same level of service, access and functionality from all of the companies and business they engage with.
“They are asking for improved ways of banking, new products and new levels of efficiency,” says Banda.
“And with that we have to rethink how we operate. What was a successful model a few years back has become almost entirely obsolete, and so the bank set it upon itself to become more innovative, more responsive and agile to meet these growing demands.”
Zanaco is currently undergoing a significant digital transformation, targeting a full implementation of a new digital bank by 2020. Traditionally, technology has always been implemented across the bank as a means of increasing the profitability as opposed to working in unison with the growth journey of the wider organisation.
When attempting to create a far more aligned organisation there can be challenges. Banda readily admits that, with an extensive career in the technology space, the key challenge for him and the company is one of communication.
“Integrating technology to the business where people may not be as well versed as to the benefits and the functionalities of technology, you have to tailor the way in which you communicate the core message,” he says.
“And that’s a continuous challenge. To try to really understand the direction of the business and to develop solutions that can help move people, and the business, forward.”
In any technology transformation, the role of the employee and the people across the entire organisation cannot be understated.
After all, the right technology to drive a business forward needs to have the right person behind it.
This is something that Banda recognises and invests a great amount of time in fostering, personally retraining himself on a regular basis in order to be able to be the right man in charge.
Part of Banda’s core mission is to align not only the technology, but the people and the teams to a single business led vision. He notes that a company needs its people to grow with it in order to continue to deliver solutions and services that the ever-changing customer is demanding.
To that end, Banda has worked to create what he feels is an environment that provides the right level of challenges for the team to create a culture of innovation.
Ultimately, this is dictated by the customer.
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“The customer of today wants efficiency and reliability,” says Banda. “They want to be able to perform a transaction in a quick and efficient manner. No queuing, no waiting. That for me is a market that invites challenge from a banking perspective, and so we must rise to that challenge.”
Zanaco’s transformation is to serve a wider business strategy, to be the bank of choice in Zambia. The company is already a leader in the market, but Banda knows that it has to innovate in order to continue to be a leader.
This will be achieved through the implementation and delivery of cutting edge solutions for customers, including the launch of a mobile banking application earlier this year as well as a number of in house solutions to become far more agile and responsive to the market.
A key component of this is the bank’s vendor management strategy.
“We align ourselves with a number of vendors at different levels and through our transformation, both internally and on an external basis,” says Banda.
“We partner with some vendors to look specifically at the in-house development of solutions for customers but we also work with vendors to help us develop new solutions for the business.”
“It’s about working closely with all of our partners to help take our solutions development to the next level so that those solutions continue to be ones that customers demand and enjoy.”
With technology and the digitisation of business, organisations such as Zanaco cannot reach an “end point” and then stop. Technology will continue to evolve and so too must Zanaco, so the goals set for 2020 will not be the same goals for 2021 and beyond.
The journey was an initial three-year plan and as we approach the midway point of 2018, one and a half years in, Banda looks at this year as a year of laying down the key foundations for the future growth of the business.
“We’re sitting in a great space right now. A lot of our energy in the first year was focused on revamping our in-house applications and systems and honing our skills as a team,” he says.
“This year we have brought on board our mobile app and are now revamping our internet banking platform for our Corporate and Retail clients, both of which are really setting us up nicely to hit those initial 2020 goals.”
Eyes inevitably will turn to beyond 2020 and Banda confirms as much, recognising the need to continue to prepare for whatever the future holds for the banking industry in Zambia.
“The future for us will be defined by keeping our ears close to the ground in order to constantly evolve with the evolving market trends,” he says.
“While our we will continue to innovate and continue to push our solutions to remain at the forefront of technology, ultimately it’s about making our customer happy.
“We want to be the bank of choice in Zambia, consistently, for many years to come.”