POSTBANK QUICKLY LEARNS THE ROPES OF A TOUGH BUSINESS TERRAIN

Customers being served at Postbank’s Westlands branch while observing physical distance and wearing face masks. [BL PHOTO]
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Disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, leading savings bank puts in

place some innovative measures to safeguard its business

By George Gichuki

When China reported the first case of Covid-19 in December 2019, the fatality of this novel disease had not dawned on many people the world over. It looked like just another item in the global news. But within a very short period of time, the deadly pandemic started spreading like wildlife to the rest of the world. Kenya reported her first case on12th March 2020. Ever since, it has not been business as usual for all sectors of the economy and households in the country. Nevertheless, it is gratifying that individual citizens and organizations are gradually taking the monstrous virus in stride as they embrace the new normal that it has radically occasioned.

The Covid -19 pandemic has caused disruption that has changed everything that has been the norm in the way Postbank conducts banking and the way its customers manage their finances. The pandemic has caused an economic downturn with most organizations scaling down their operations. Consequently, this has affected individuals’ disposable income due to salary pay cuts, unpaid leaves and employment termination thus disrupting their savings plans. This has in turn impacted the bank’s retail deposits mobilsed through savings.

By the same token, restricted movement has discouraged customers from visiting branches. In order to continue providing access to banking services, the bank continues to promote the use of its mobile and internet banking services hence encouraging contactless banking.

The bank takes cognisance of this challenging environment and has scaled efforts in providing financial literacy to inform and encourage the public on better financial management to cushion them against such disruptions in future.

Lessons

Rather than resigning to fate due to this disruption, Postbank is quickly learning the ropes of the new experience and aligning its business accordingly. One of the major lessons that the bank has picked in the process is that the crisis can be a catalyst for transformation in banking. Indeed, the entire customer journey can be moved online through easy digital on boarding. Ultimately, this captures more customers thus realizing more returns on investment. Secondly, more than ever, the pandemic has made many organizations to appreciate that innovation is a fundamental key to their success. Postbank is not an exception. An increase in digital banking has helped it to reduce the negative impact of Covid-19 as the public minimizes on physical contact.

The bank has also realized the need to adopt more innovative means of communication ( such as omni channels). This is because a growing number of customers want to communicate through social media, online webchats, apps on their mobile phones, telephone or through other online services. Moreover, it has embraced adaptive work plans by providing a digital environment that allows employees to work and be productive from wherever they are. In the same breath, it has put in place an elaborate business continuity plan (BCP) that documents a comprehensive plan of action. This plan sets out procedures and establishes the processes and systems necessary to continue or restore operations in the event of a disruption.

Curbing the spread

It is the responsibility of Postbank to take care of its staff and customers at all times. Consequently, it has put in place a number of measures in order to curb the spread of Covid-19. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the bank had adopted paperless banking technology that has decongested banking halls and reduced incidences of long queues. This has also seen minimal contact by both customers and staff.

To ease navigation during this difficult period and to guarantee the health and safety of its customers, staff members

and visitors, the bank has Installed hand sanitizers at various customers’ touch points in all banking halls. They are being

used by visitors, customers and staff to ensure constant sanitization.

Secondly, the bank’s employees have adopted preventive hygiene in accordance with the government’s guidelines which

includes frequent hand-washing, wearing gloves and working from home (for noncustomer- facing employees).

Most importantly, customers have been encouraged to take up digital banking channels – including mobile and online

banking- in an effort to ensure that they can conveniently carry out various transactions while at home. The bank’s M-Pesa paybill number for deposit is 200999. Customers can also use unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) code

*498#for withdrawals and other financial transactions.

Postbank has also introduced and relaunched a self-service account opening through the mobile phone branded –MSAWA. This account is accessed through the use of USSD CODE *498#.

By the same token, the bank is raising awareness towards flattening the Covid-19 curve in partnership with the Kenya

Bankers Association through sensitization on its social media platforms.

Finally, it is encouraging customers to adopt online shopping through the use of the Postbank Visa debit card. To this end,

the bank has partnered with different supermarkets to promote online purchases. As a way of giving back to the community, Postbank is in the process of donating and installing hand-washing stations in markets and hospitals across the six regions where its branches are located.

A customer washes his hands before entering Postbank’s market branch at Nairobi’s
Central Business District.

The new normal

Globally, it is not yet clear when the spread of coronavirus will be curbed. The World Health Organization (WHO) has therefore developed various guidelines and protocols to check the spread as scientists work round the clock to develop a vaccine. We therefore have a new normal both at the workplaces and homes.

In light of this, Postbank has embarked on enhancing the digital on-boarding of its customers through an easy account

acquisition process. In addition, it is enhancing online customer trainings through webinars to replace face to face

financial literacy programmes. Customers will therefore benefit from savings education and financial literacy offered

so as to assist them navigate all the tough economic times – currently and in the future. This will also allow the bank to reach more customers online.

Postbank is also strengthening partnerships with key international and local bodies such as the World Savings Bank Institute (WSBI), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Association of Savings Banks of East Africa ( ASBEA) as well as the Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) among others in order to collaborate on initiatives that will scale up a savings culture in the country.

Moreover, the bank is enhancing customer experience by improving its delivery channels and offering demand driven

products and services. Finally, it is undertaking reinvention and differentiation by strengthening operational resilience and positioning itself for a new era of innovation and growth.

Being the only savings bank in Kenya, Postbank’s target is to enhance financial management to various communities as

it continues to review its products and services so that they can meet the needs of its customers; especially the youth. In

order to achieve this noble goal, the bank will continue investing more on its digital banking platforms.

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