Nigerian Access Bank has big plans for South Africa as it launches new retail bank

  • The Access Bank group has launched Access Bank South Africa.
  • The Nigeria-based bank acquired Grobank in March and will add retail banking operations to it.
  • It plans to open four branches before the end of the year and operate a digital bank.

South Africa has a new retail bank – Access Bank South. The Nigerian multinational commercial bank acquired the agricultural bank Grobank in March and officially launched its entry into the South African market on Monday.

While Grobank, formerly Bank of Athens, did not have retail banking operations because it focused solely on lending to farmers, Access Bank chief executive Bennie van Rooy said the bank plans to compete. in the retail sector.

“We will be launching a retail bank in South Africa, with a combination of physical branches opening at least three, if not four branches before the end of the year,” Van Rooy said.

He said the launch, digital integration and digital transactional capabilities would also be scheduled for the end of the year. It will primarily target low-income people and immigrants.

The bank has promised a “simple” retail banking offering, and like FNB’s new Aspire products, it wants to hang on to consumers’ aspirations to own a home, buy assets or access credit for other reasons. Van Rooy said Access Bank would also open many doors for African businesses to simplify trade across the continent, a proposal that is likely to strike a chord given the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“It will bring something to this African banking sector that did not exist before,” Van Rooy said.

Why South Africa?

Access is Nigeria’s largest bank and has a presence in 14 African countries. Beyond the African coasts, it is also present in China, Dubai and London.

But as Access Bank’s ambition is to be “the most respected African bank in the world”. It therefore had to be present in South Africa, despite the growing competition between local players and the reluctance of its citizens to change banks.

“The story could not have been complete without our presence in important markets like South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique and Botswana,” said Roosevelt Ogbonna, deputy managing director of Access Bank Group.

Ogbonna said South Africa will be “a critical anchor” for Access Bank’s strategy for Southern Africa, and will be fueled by AfCFTA. He said more Nigerian companies were keen to establish operations in South Africa because of the AfCFTA.

Navigating South African Banking Competition

But despite the arrival of more banks in South Africa, new foreign players and other foreign players are not taking market share from the Big Four as one might expect. Capitec is the only bank that has managed to supplant the big four in terms of the number of customers.

For Access Bank, the road to claiming retail market share may seem even steeper as Grobank was operating in a niche market.

But Ogbonna said Access Bank has never been one to back down from a challenge and that she knows she also has what it takes to “win” in this market. Access Bank Group Managing Director Herbert Wigwe said the bank “is here to stay” and will change the way things are done in South Africa.

“These are the same conversations we had when we went to the UK. It was 12 years ago. We have been told all kinds of things; that it will take you 24 months at best to get your license. – we got it in six months, ”Ogbonna said of the skepticism they faced before.

Van Rooy said there are still many untapped “spots” in South Africa, especially immigrants, as many do not have South African bank accounts. Access Bank wants to be “the natural home” for everyone who lives in the country. He said if the bank starts by focusing on the immigrant diaspora, it will seek three million registered Africans in the diaspora.

“The Access Bank brand is recognizable across the continent… There is a huge opportunity for us to lead in this specific segment and be the bank of choice,” he said.

Van Rooy said he does not see the difficulty for Access Bank to gain market share because it is “a big bank with a small bank mindset” that will go to poor rural citizens and tell them: “I want to help you”.

“There is no reason why we cannot gain market share. We cannot attract customers to our points of presence, and we cannot increase the number of accounts we open quickly,” he said. he added.

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