By Londiwe Buthelezi for News24
As many people and some businesses are likely questioning the wisdom of ploughing more money into South Africa after the recent unrest, Capitec CEO Gerrie Fourie says he sees ample opportunities.
A perfectly running economy like Switzerland might sound like a dream, but Fourie says it doesn’t have the magnitude of opportunities that challenges-ridden SA presents.
“I am a strong believer that if you are positive, you’ll look for opportunities, you’ll find opportunities. If you are negative, you just see problems,” said the Capitec CEO during the PSG Think Big Series discussion on Tuesday.
Capitec launched a big recruitment drive on Tuesday, which will see it fill around 300 positions of mainly “fourth industrial revolution” skills over the next few months. These will include disciplines in business science, artificial intelligence, data engineers and computer analysts.
Fourie said he understood that it could be “quite scary” to be recruiting hundreds of people in the current environment as economies battered by Covid-19 are still trying to recover. But Capitec is “looking to grow and go further”, he said.
Fourie said he does not want to underplay SA’s challenges, especially the education system that needs an overhaul. But to get around this, Capitec is doing its own training.
“There are big challenges there. But when I look at where we are, we believe there are massive opportunities in South Africa,” he said.
Room to disrupt the market
Capitec has around 16.3 million clients, which Fourie says is a 10% market share of SA’s retail banking. The banks wants to grow that to around 20% to 25%. In the retail deposit space and insurance, Capitec respectively commands 8% for now and about 6% in credit.
So, Fourie sees “plenty of opportunities” to grow in these areas.
The bank also has big ambitions for its business banking proposition, following its acquisition of Mercantile Bank in 2019.
READ | Snail-paced rollout of business banking – Capitec has a few tricks up its sleeve
“We’re very excited about Mercantile because, in business banking, there’s a big opportunity in the SME market. If you want to unlock the opportunity in Africa, that’s the market you focus on,” he said.
Mercantile Bank will be transformed into a completely digital Capitec Business Bank. With a bank that’s not dependent on its brick-and-mortar infrastructure to grow, it might offer Capitec the opportunity to take its offering internationally, said Fourie.
However, the bank’s immediate focus is growing its market share in SA, and any international expansion would be small and measured.
Building an army of innovators
As a young bank, Fourie said Capitec’s roadmap looked at where it wants to be in three years during the first two decades of its existence. Now, it’s looking at where the bank must be in 2030.
With this long-term focus, it’s looking past short-term noises.
The bank has an “innovation team” that scouts the world, looking at how banking and financial services are changing in other markets.
Fourie said the team travelled a lot before Covid-19, doing over 1 000 international trips a year. It not only confined its learnings to financial services but spent time with retail and internet giants like Alibaba and Tencent to understand where opportunities lie in the blurring lines between banks, mobile operators and retailers.
But Capitec also learns a lot from the annual hackathon competitions that it runs with universities to get new innovative digital solutions for real-world problems.
Fourie said there are three to four solutions currently in production that came from this initiative that the bank will probably use.