Source: CNBC Africa
South Africa’s Nedbank denied any wrongdoing on Monday after three local news sites reported on its links to a scandal that led to large losses at public entities, sending the bank’s shares down almost 9%.
Investigative outlet amaBhungane, the Daily Maverick and News24 said Nedbank paid billions in rand in fees to a company called Regiments Capital for involving it in deals that lost money for municipalities and state-owned companies.
The article published by the three news sites said the commissions were often not disclosed to clients Regiments was supposed to be advising impartially and that Nedbank knew or should have known this, among other allegations.
In a statement responding to the article, Nedbank said there was nothing unlawful or unusual about its relationship with Regiments, although with hindsight it might have acted differently.
“Our internal and external reviews confirmed that Nedbank has at no time acted unlawfully in its dealings with Regiments and the affected counterparties,” Nedbank said.
An email to the address on Regiments’ website seeking comment bounced back, while a call to the number on its website went to the voice mail of another firm. Reuters could not immediately reach any legal representatives for Regiments.
Nedbank shares closed down 8.87% versus a 1.9% decline for the South African banking index.
According to a recent article by MyBroadband, a large number of South Africans have asked their banks for payment holidays and cash flow relief during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Absa has seen almost 570 000 account holders benefit from relief
- This amounts to R7.8-billion cash flow relief
- Nedbank has assisted more than 225 000 clients, out of a total credit active client base of approximately 2.5-million
- Standard Bank granted instalment relief to nearly 150 000 clients in the wake of the national lockdown
- This amounts to over R1-billion in instalment relief per month
- FNB said it has offered almost R6 billion in relief to customers since 1 April 2020
- Nearly 700 000 account holders benefited from relief
- A total of 1.64-million South Africans have received payment holidays
Nedbank has launched a new “super app”, called Avo, which will give the bank’s customers to access online shopping, essential services and financial products on a single platform.
The group said the term “super app” refers to the fact that Avo is actually a multitude of apps aggregated into one.
Some of the key features of the app include:
- Online groceries and food – Nedbank has partnered with OneCart to allow customers to buy groceries from leading retailers in one delivery or browse the Avo Shop for essential items at the best prices.
- Essential professional home services – The app currently has 170 registered home repair and services merchants, with more being added
- Digital home entertainment – Users can access a number of home entertainment options including Showmax, Tidal and Deezer
- Airtime, data and electricity – Users can easily top-up and purchase airtime, data and electricity bundles
- Avo points – The app has a built-in rewards system and users can earn 1% in Avo Points on every transaction made on the platform.
- Business listing – Nedbank said it will allow businesses to list for free on the app. This will allow them to reach more potential customers, communicate easily, send quotations and receive payments in-app.
Because the app launched in the middle of the country’s coronavirus lockdown, Nedbank said the services available through the app are level-5 compliant.
It added that the beta version of Avo has already been delivering essential goods, providing home entertainment and connecting home service providers across provinces.
While the app was originally trialled by staff, Nedbank said it has now released a beta version to its Nedbank Money App users.
“This will see the phased release of Avo to Nedbank clients, to allow for further enhancements before full public launch.”
“The beta will allow Nedbank Money App users to use a two-click process to sign up seamlessly onto Avo.”
Nedbank service provider’s IT systems have been breached, exposing the personal information of up to 1.7 million clients, said the bank last Thursday.
Computer Facilities, which does direct marketing for Nedbank by sending short messages and email marketing information on behalf of the bank, was breached.
The bank said there was some “potentially compromised data” which included names, identity cards numbers, telephone numbers, physical and/or email addresses.
“We regret the incident … and the matter is receiving our urgent attention. The safety and security of our clients’ information is a top priority,” said Nedbank CEO Mike Brown, adding that the bank systems or client accounts were not impacted.
“We are communicating directly with affected clients. We are also taking the necessary actions in close cooperation with the relevant regulators and authorities,” said Brown.
Nedbank group Chief Information Officer Fred Swanepoel said they have secured and destroyed all their client information held by Computer Facilities.
Last year the City of Johannesburg’s system was hacked and some payment in bitcoins were demanded. In 2017 South Africa’s insurance company Liberty was hacked and demanded ransom.
Nedbank Group is in talks with about 1 500 employees over potential job cuts at the South African lender’s retail and business-banking division to cope with a struggling economy and increased competition.
The company forecasts that “between 50 and 100 employees are at risk of not being placed in a role,” Johannesburg-based Nedbank said in an emailed response to questions on Friday.
“Unplaced employees will then be assisted by the bank to either secure available alternative positions within the bank, which is our first prize, or be equipped for opportunities outside the bank.”
South African lenders are battling to grow revenue faster than costs as they contend with an economy that has shrunk for three of the past five quarters.
Consumers have been battered by rampant unemployment, rising taxes, fuel prices and utility bills, pushing them to explore cheaper banking alternatives or digital services.
Companies aren’t investing amid uncertainty over electricity supply and surging government debt levels.
“Nedbank is being forced to reshape our operating models and businesses,” the company said. “In doing this, Nedbank actively makes use of natural attrition and a redeployment and reskilling pool. Non-voluntary retrenchments are always the last option.”
The company, which employs 30,577 people, has also been reducing the floor space used by its branches and increasing the use of automation to lower costs.
Nedbank expects the process to be concluded after the final meeting with the labor union Sasbo at the end of this month, it said.
Ricoh SA is an official brand sponsor and office automation equipment supplier for the Nedbank Golf Challenge 2014 that takes place at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City from 4 to 7 December.