The critical role of the financial services sector in African and their vital role in ensuring citizens continued to have access to service during the COVID-19 pandemic;
Why Africa is considered extremely innovative in its approach to the use of technology;
Why a black swan event like Covid-19 is both an indicator of real progress as well as an unexpected driver of innovation in Africa;
What are the challenges for the future and the role of data and
How established African financial services companies like Old Mutual responded to the pandemic
Old Mutual’s African operations are challenging the misconception of Africa as an importer of technology.
Instead, the leading role that Old Mutual’s African operations are playing in the digital transformation of the 175-year old business is further proof of Africa’s leading position as a center of digital innovation.
From a digital transformation perspective, “Africa is not only culturally comfortable operating remotely, but the continent is also extremely innovative in its approach to the use and development of technology,” says the Executive Head: Old Mutual Digital and Data, Rest of Africa, Isaac Nzyoka.
The reality of Africa’s advanced digital literacy was powerfully demonstrated by the continent’s response to the current Covid-19 crisis and general lockdown across the continent.
The Covid-19 crisis caught many organisations midstream on their digital journey’s, forcing fast-fixes and quick turn-arounds of, especially, the remote capabilities that many had been building for a while.
While Old Mutual’s African operations were no exception, “what was astounding was the speed with which clients in many of our African markets outside of South Africa migrated to digital,” said zyoka. For example, 25 000 Zimbabwean clients signed up for Old Mutual’s e-wallet, performing over 70 000 transactions in the first month of launching the solution.
Also in Zimbabwe, when Old Mutual’s Woman’s Network was forced into lockdown, it quickly went digital via an app. The app proved extremely useful organising marathons, run in isolation with individual participants recording their distances and speeds to raise funds for Covid-19 health awareness.
In East Africa, Old Mutual’s facebook chatbot, called Arifa, which also allows transactions via Mpesa, has generated over R1 million in investments each month since lockdown began. In Nigeria, a facebook messenger bot was launched to assist customers interact with Old Mutual remotely. In Namibia, Old Mutual’s USSD transaction channel drew a comment from a remote rural client able to sign up, submit a claim and conduct his banking, ‘on my phone from the comfort and safety of my own kraal.’
Other recent innovations marking the sophistication and reach of Old Mutual’s digital journey include; a mobile money service in Malawi allowing customers to pay their premiums remotely, a mobile payment platform in Ghana expediting the receipt of claims proceeds, and the use of artificial intelligence in Namibia to save processing time, freeing advisers to focus on customer service. Old Mutual also supports online travel insurance in a number of African markets.
The continent’s young and digitally literate population has been a key driver of Old Mutual’s strategy to, “serve customers whenever they wish to be served, 24/7, wherever they are, and on whatever channel or platform they use,” says Nzyoka.
Making this strategy a reality across 13 markets in Africa demanded the simultaneous phased development of an engagement platform, digitalization of key customer journeys and a data platform.
Today, Old Mutual’s end-to-end engagement platform includes a public website supported by social media elements, “enabling all the technologies that customers use across the continent to operate and intersect,” explains Nzyoka.
The new public web has been rolled out in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and South Sudan, with Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya next in line. The engagement platform will eventually support one Old Mutual interface that customers can access and use anywhere in any Old Mutual market across Africa.
This will also mean that Old Mutual has much more customer data instantly available in one place. This data provides, “an enriched view of customers across Africa from which to predict, advise and guide individual behaviour,” says Nzyoka. It is this data, and the ability to use it that will support Old Mutual preserve and grow wealth through many more generations, “on a greater scale and higher level of ability than anything we’ve achieved in the last 175 years,” predicts Nzyoka.
While it is still just the start of Old Mutual’s digital journey in Africa, Covid-19 has been instrumental as both an indicator of real progress as well as an unexpected driver of innovation. Lockdown also brought forward many of Old Mutual’s digital deliverables. Finally, the businesses’ response to the crisis built, overnight, “a far greater agility and operational bench strength into our digital teams across the continent,” says Nzyoka.
The challenge for the immediate future will be to sustain this higher level of digital roll-out such that it measurably improves the customer experience. At the same time there will be strong focus on advancing Old Mutual’s data capability. Data is the currency central to building a financial ability and risk management ecosystem capable of, “empowering and guiding Africans everywhere, 24/7, to prosper through the generations using the technology they have in their hands,” concludes Nzyoka.