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How Barclays Africa can thrive as Absa

Barclays Bank Kenya MD
Barclays Bank Kenya MD Jeremy Awori during a 2015 briefing when the lender bought the insurer. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

On July 11, Barclays Africa Group Limited officially changed its name to Absa Group Limited.

It will rename its subsidiaries across the continent; an arduous journey.

Any form of change brings anxiety among stakeholders who wish to protect their interests. For example, bank employees will need reassurance that the benefits they enjoyed under the Barclays brand will remain or get better.

Shareholders want assurance that their rate of investment returns will be maintained. Customers, too, want even better services than they have previously enjoyed. Each one of these demands requires special, strategic choices.

Staff is key to the bank’s successful rebranding, and, as such, the messaging on their future stability will be of great benefit. They need to be reassured that there will be no job losses and a firm demonstration that the re-branding constitutes an exciting and better opportunity.

This is an integral step because staff are the most important ambassadors for any brand. And it is a big plus that Barclays has positioned employees at the centre of the brand transition, having revealed the brand, its values and attitudes to them before doing it externally.

Barclays Bank’s Managing Director in Kenya, Mr. Jeremy Awori, is optimistic that the change will be smooth. “While our parent name has changed today, our clients and customers can continue to bank with us as confidently as they always have. We are here to stay, working with all our stakeholders to grow a better Kenya. We remain committed to delivering mutual benefits to our shareholders, customers, communities and our country,” he said.

It is imperative that the bank continues to demonstrate to customers that their money is in safe hands. The bank must show that it is committed to long-term interests in the country, and as such, will help customers prosper through innovative solutions in an increasingly fluid state of technology.

The future of banking will demand that the bank be responsive to its customers, with easy banking that creates a great experience. And of course, they should not forget that the customer wants great value from their financial products and services.

It is understood that the bank is developing new backend systems to be housed on the continent with the express aim of improving the customer experience. It will certainly be interesting to see if they can achieve this aim over time.

Although we have not heard much from Kenya’s policy and regulatory bodies, the bank will, at some point, explain - and possibly flaunt - its strong history of good governance, which remains a pillar of success moving forward.

New customers and the wider public must remain convinced that current and future product offerings have value.

As we move closer to the fourth industrial revolution, they will need more innovative digital transformation products to stamp their authority in leveraging technology to create greater efficiency to the customer.

The bank must execute with resolve its digital strategy focusing on employing innovation and technology to solve current and future customer problems.

The recent launch of Barclays’s new ‘Timiza’ product as a glimpse into the future digitisation of the bank. This new digital offering has seen quite astonishing take up with over two million customers in just over 130 days of operation.

This is perhaps a sneak preview that the Kenyan market, a leader in digital technology, is on the verge of moving into digital currency, unlike many other markets in Africa.

As rebranding begins in earnest, the waters are calm. But still waters run deep. Many challenges may crop up unannounced.

For now, the bank should internalize the outcomes they want from each interest group, define what specific activities support their desired outcome from each interest group, and learn dedication and patience.

So far, the bank has kept a good record as far as keeping its stakeholders informed and engaged, and this is where it must not relent.

Change will always be resisted in many ways but what matters is how it is handled especially when there are multiple interests.

The secret to success is to monitor the change, engage continuously and communicate with all parties involved.

The writer is an Associate Professor at University of Nairobi’s School of Business.

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