Leaders’ Responses

This article is an excerpt from a white paper co-authored by Peter Alkema and Dr Jeff Yu-Chen from Gibs University.

Innovation is an imperative for banks operating in the emerging market

The pressure of new market entrants and the billions of currently unbanked potential customers require entirely new ways of doing business.

Some banks are taking an incremental, evolutionary approach, while many others are revolutionary in their radical redesign of the way they do business.

In South Africa, FNB was the first to offer company name registration for startups, seamlessly integrated into the online cheque account opening process.

This service has expanded into supporting businesses with tax and BEE registration processes, helping business owners by taking care of red-tape and administration, freeing them up to focus on their core business.

In an era of rapid emergence of new technologies coupled with innovative business models, customers’ preferences are deeply interlocked with the use of new digital innovations.

The banking industry is perhaps at the start of what can be described as a “digital disruptive tornado” – and this fascinating time presents various opportunities for institutions in South Africa.

This whitepaper recommends strategic imperatives to ensure that banks are prepared for this wave of disruption.

Despite decades of investment in infrastructure, technology and marketing, long-standing Fortune 500 firms in consumer transportation and hospitality now find themselves competing, essentially, with a mobile app.

This is, however, only partly true: Exponential organisations that have ushered in the Fourth Industrial Revolution have created a lot more than just a website with an intuitive interface.

They have invested heavily and most have failed numerous times and often started as the underdog that no-one believed would succeed.

They have also cleverly built their business model around their customer; made big bets on technology; and intimately understood the needs they were solving.

With ever-increasing volatility, uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity in the banking sector due to digital disruption and other factors, today’s leading banks must place greater emphasis on their future preparedness.

Developing strong corporate foresight to assist exponential growth will become vital.

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It must be noted, though, that relatively few organisations have achieved genuine exponential business success in the last two decades and yet this model of growth has set the standard for outlying performance in the 21st century.

Household names such as Uber and Airbnb are frequently cited as examples of the asset-lite, hyper-growth, high-tech businesses that are synonymous with a startlingly rapid disruption of their industries.

These organisations earned overwhelming levels of success by leveraging a set of business principles and processes that catalysed exponential growth which have been proposed by popular writers such as Thiel and Masters, as well as, Ismail, Malone, Geest and Diamandis.

Steven Kotler, American bestselling author, journalist and entrepreneur, posits that business leaders need to grasp six critical steps of achieving exponential entrepreneurship in order to benefit from the exponentially advancing technologies.

Digitisation, deceptive growth and disruption are three early steps in the exponential growth curve.

Other steps include dematerialisation of assets, democratisation of information and demonetisation.

The sequential nature of the exponential paradigm is important: Fully exponential companies also were not always the first or the best at each of these steps, but they did achieve them all with varying degrees of success and often in the same sequence.

Digitisation is well understood as being the maximum automation of customer-facing processes – nobody has had to fill in a form to join Uber or stand in a queue to update their Facebook account.

This leads to the deceptive growth of early stage non-linear curves; double small numbers and you still get small numbers.

It’s possible that Geoffrey Moore’s “chasm of failure” fits neatly into this curve if the next step of disruption is not achieved; early growth just doesn’t become disruptive or enjoy the majority usage – it falls into the chasm of failure or mediocrity.

There were other on-demand transport apps before Uber, including South Africa’s SnappCab, but none crossed the chasm to achieve such spectacular, non-linear growth.

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