First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) is better known as a bank of many firsts in Botswana’s cutthroat banking sector. Perhaps the bank’s biggest invention to date has been the FNB App which has surely defined and transformed the way banking is done since it was first launched more than 5 years ago. “We started working on the App in 2013 and it was successfully launched in 2014,” remembered the bank’s Head of Digital Banking, Gaogakwe Mokobi.
In an exclusive interview with Botswana Guardian on Tuesday, he explained how the App came into being. He stated that before the FNB App came into existence, the bank, which is the biggest in the market, has been on a digital banking journey which also saw them launching cell phone and internet banking. “We introduced the App to our customers, having realised that there was a gap, cellphone banking had too many steps and internet banking wasn’t as mobile as our customers required. The FNB App allows customers to transact with ease, within a much shorter time, wherever they are,” he said, adding that, the App has been a hit with customers on the move.
Mokobi, who is well respected by peers as an e-solutions expert within the banking sector, is content that, the FNBB App has changed the way banking is done in Botswana, having successfully moved thousands of customers from brick-and-mortar branches to digital banking. “The App’s major advantage is that, someone is able to transact wherever they are, as long as there is internet connectivity. The App also has higher transaction limits,” he explained. The FNB App is also intuitive. “This basically means it is easy to use and understand.”
The App is able to help customers transact and do banking services such as payments, online purchases and other self-services. These transactions are even made easier since the bank has strategic agreements and partnerships with key services providers in the country. The App is perhaps the most widely used in the country.
In Botswana, there are several commercial banks with banking Apps, who are all equally competing with the FNB App. Asked what sets the App apart from the rest in the market, Mokobi said: “I think it is the way it has been conceptualised and implemented. It was made with the customers’ needs at the center. . It has so many features which allow customers to do more self-service than visiting a branch. It is even more important, especially during COVID-19, where as a bank we want to limit branch visits by our customers,” he pointed out.
The world over, customers are increasingly worried about security and fraud. However, with the FNBB banking, there is no need to be concerned, said Mokobi, who has been with the bank for years. “Our App is very secure. It uses the same credentials as the ones used for internet banking,” said Mokobi, adding that the App is able to identify rightful owners through biometrics. The FNBB Digital Head explained that, another plus for the App is that “it is zero rated.” This means someone does not need data to use it. The bank has you covered.
Mokobi explained that they are now working to ensure the App has the capability to do more, which effectively means customers can access other services without visiting the branch. For example, someone can log a query or fraudulent transaction with the bank and get a response within a short period of time. This also includes card blocking in the case of a customer losing his or her card and even viewing your card PIN if you have forgotten it “A customer can temporarily block a card on suspicion of fraud or misplacement and later unblock it without involving the bank,” he disclosed. Mokobi has told Botswana Guardian that, ever since the App was introduced in the domestic banking sector, it has grown exponentially in terms of customer numbers and usage. He did not immediately disclose the number of customers signed up for the App.
Nonetheless, Mokobi was able to disclose they have seen a surge in usage amid COVID-19, which erupted last year in Botswana. “We have seen a 125%growth in the number of customers registered for the App and a 230% growth in transaction volumes since last April,” he disclosed to this publication. In the coming days and weeks, FNBB is expected to reward, through a competition, those who consistently use the App for their transactions.
The world over, fraud is a major concern for both individuals and companies. The complexity of fraud changes every day and billions of Pula are lost to fraudsters on a yearly basis.
First National Bank Botswana, the country’s largest bank, is well alive to this. This explains why more resources are channeled towards guarding customers against financial fraud. No one within the bank is better placed to talk about fraud other than the bank’s Chief Risk Officer (CRO), Lesego Bannalotlhe. Her major role is to oversee the bank’s structures that deal with legal, fraud and operational risks. Bannalotlhe was appointed to the important position in 2016, after holding several senior positions within the bank.
“The environment we work in is very agile. We have to ensure that we are always one step ahead of fraudsters,” Bannalotlhe told Botswana Guardian by phone on Wednesday. “Fraudsters are highly educated and sophisticated individuals,” she disclosed, adding that fraudsters do a lot of research and background checks before hitting unsuspecting targets.
According to the bank’s CRO, who has been within the risk and fraud management sub sector for well over a decade, FNBB has water tight systems and processes which are geared towards ensuring ‘they protect valued customers against any fraud’. In fact, there are a number of well-oiled initiatives that the bank has come up with to ensure clients are protected against any fraud. First and foremost, the bank, renowned for its digital banking and innovation in Botswana, has ensured their award-winning banking platforms are safe and secure at all times. As more and more customers go online for transaction and payment purposes, fraudsters are always on the look to short change them. This explains why they have spent a fortune to ensure, suspicious activities within customers’ accounts are noticed and dealt with almost immediately.
In addition, the bank has also embarked on public education campaigns that educate clients on how to guard themselves against fraud at all times. “Most fraud happens against customers not the bank per se,” she said. Bannalotlhe highlighted to Botswana Guardian that the fraud that has been observed happens mostly within the cyber space. There is email and internet fraud in which fraudsters target customers and third parties banking activities. She said fraudsters are capable of making instructions to banks to make payments. At times, fraudsters will intercept conversations between clients and their suppliers and later use the information for their deceitful gain.
This explains why, FNBB is at the forefront of educating and sensitizing clients that their banking details which include Personal Identification Number (PIN)s and passwords should be kept secret. “Customers are not supposed to share their personal banking information with anyone no matter how close they are,” Bannalotlhe advised. Another form of cybercrime within the banking space is whereby fraudsters create fraudulent websites. Customers should always be careful not to be dragged into these fake websites’ links. Bannalotlhe said that, past experience shows that some customers could be defrauded after ending up in fake websites which pretend to be online shops. “People should be careful not to click on these kinds of sites,” she further advised. The bank’s Chief Risk Officer explained that, customers should always be vigilant and do thorough research before buying anything online.
Botswana’s banking sector, just like elsewhere, has over the years become highly digitalised. This basically means more and more customers are now doing banking on digital platforms. FNBB has a wide range of digital banking platforms, such the FNB App, online and cellphone banking, which are utilized by both retail and corporate clients. Bannalotlhe was quick to point out that, as banks are becoming highly digitalised, fraudsters are also hard at work, devising means to defraud unsuspecting customers. “Fraudsters are very agile. They shift with times and trends. We have noticed more fraud since most of our customers digitized their services e.g., retailers selling goods and services through online platforms due to Covid,” she stated, adding that, fraudsters are intelligent people as some come from professions such as engineering, science among others. “They are not average people.”
FNBB, which has as much as 600 000 customers, has not seen much of fraud affecting customers largely because of their tight systems. The other factor which has contributed to low fraud cases is continuous public education campaigns against fraud. The FNBB Chief Risk Officer has told Botswana Guardian that, on a constant basis, they up-skill the risk and fraud management staff to be in a strong position to be able to deal with the agile fraudsters. In addition, the bank is also working with all government entities which are responsible for combating fraud and financial crimes.
In the coming days, the public will go for Easter Holidays.
Generally, crimes are rifer during holidays. But why is this the case? “I think this happens because most of the time people will be having money and there will be more relaxed and forget to be more cautious. Fraudsters are able to notice this,” she said as a matter of fact. This explains why FNB Botswana has always been on the forefront of sensitizing clients even more during holidays. Campaigns are done through radio, social media, website, print media, FNB App, among others. Similarly, the bank, which is listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange has also made it easy for customers to report any suspected fraudulent activity in their accounts immediately.
Customers can report any fraud using the FNB App, 24-hour contact center (395 9881) toll free 0800 302 302 (all the networks), among others. Bannalotlhe has advised customers to be vigilant during the coming holidays. Among others, cautionary measures for customers are keeping bank details private, guarding online information, accounts monitoring and knowing which third parties have access to their banking information. The FNB App, online banking and cellphone banking enable customers to keep track of their account’s activities at all times.
Botswana Tertiary Students Sport Association (BOTESSA) Vice-President Technical, Keorapetse Setlhare is reported to be positioning himself well to take over as president, BG Sport can confirm. BOTESSA will be going to the polls on the 22nd of February 2019. This comes after the resignation of former president Herbert Letsebe late last year due to ill health.
BG Sport was this week reliably informed by sources within the BOTESSA structures that the man who used to be Letsebe’s right hand man, Setlhare, is gunning for the presidential title. Actually he is the man who is currently in charge of the BOTESSA office since the departure of Letsebe. On paper, it does not seem like an ugly transition of power, where a deputy takes over when his boss steps down, however with BOTESSA contested re- elections, it appears there is more to the matter than meets the eye.
According to highly placed sources, Letsebe and Setlhare’s relationship deteriorated in the last few months leading to Letsebe’s resignation. In fact, it was even alleged that Setlhare has long fancied his chances. At the time, divisions had rocked the association, with issues of unprofessionalism and funds embezzlement prevalent. This saw even some members of the national executive committee suspended from office.
However, things appeared to have stabilized with time and BOTESSA was able to bring in First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) as a sponsor. FNBB pumped a massive P3 Million into BOTESSA coffers. Despite the successes, it is alleged that both Setlhare and Letsebe had lost confidence and trust in each other.
During the association’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Maun in December last year, it was revealed that BOTESSA is knee deep in debt. The debt was reported to be close to two million and was accumulated during the Confederations of University and College Sports Association (CUCSA) Games held back in June 2018. The association has not cleared the debt yet.
Another alleged entrant in the presidential run is Jomo Moalosi, a man who served as a Secretary General (SG) more than eight years ago and is now said to be planning a return to the BOTESSA scenes.Moalosi is alleged to have the support of some affiliates who believe Setlhare is too ambitious and very young for the BOTESSA ultimate position. This would mean the 31-year-old Setlhare will have to prove his mettle against the experienced Moalosi who has been observing developments at BOTESSA for the longest period.
While the build up to the elections heats up, the association spokesperson, Duncan Segabo has revealed that the BOTESSA elections committee met this past weekend under closed doors. The committee is expected to release the opening and closing dates for those intending to contest for the top seat as early as next week.
The elections committee is expected to officially announce the names of nominees once the vetting processes have been concluded. “For now, even those interested are not allowed to publicly say it until their names are approved by the elections committee,” Segabo said.
Recent economic data from Botswana shows that the country is bucking the trend of surrounding Southern African countries, growing by 3.2 percent for the year ending in June 2017. One of the biggest non-mining sectors showing a lot of potential is the financial services sector, which had an interesting year.
To begin with, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) and Bank Gaborone opened new branches; Ford Finance developed partnerships in Botswana, and the Southern African operation of Zurich Insurance, now known as Bryte Insurance, launched in Gaborone in February with the intention of expanding into other African countries.
Fintech is also taking root in Botswana, with companies like Direct Pay Online opening shop in April, while cryptocurrencies and mobile wallets are gaining more users and offering greater financial inclusion to consumers in the country.
This investment is good news for a sector that has demonstrated over several years that it is stable and robust. According to the African Economic Outlook 2017, Botswana has been making steady progress in increasing access to financial services for its population. Since 2009, the banked population has increased by 25 percent.
From a low base, cell phone banking rose by over 370 percent and Internet banking by 200 percent during the same period. This growth in the sector is good news, too, for employment, which continues to be a challenge for the Botswana economy.
While unemployment is starting to show a slight decrease according to the latest statistics, it is still considered to be too high at 17 percent. Botswana suffered historic job losses following the global financial crisis, especially in the mining sector. State owned enterprises have also retrenched hundreds of employees over the past decade.
The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities for accounting professionals in the country – the bad news is that there are not currently enough people able to take these up. The Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) says there is a huge need for chartered accountants, professionals and technicians.
There are currently 3,136 registered BICA members (1,223 accounting professionals and 1,913 being accounting technicians) which falls short of demand. The shortage means that Botswana has to import expatriates for accounting services. Many qualified accountants also leave the country to work overseas.
To take advantage of growth in this sector in order to reduce unemployment in the country, more needs to be done to ensure that people – especially young people – have the relevant skills and are encouraged to consider a career in the financial sector.
Many young people, for instance assume because they are not strong in mathematics at school that finance is not a viable career option for them, but this is in fact not the case. Many thousands of accounting students graduate each year around the world and many of them did not have an A-level in Maths when they started their studies.
So what can government do?
According to the African Economic Outlook, the Botswana government is already doing a good job of creating an enabling environment for business and ensuring good regulation and oversight of the sector – considered vital for its continued growth. The 2016/17 Global Competitiveness Report ranked the country 65 out of 138 in financial market development.
Government can also intervene more directly in targeted skills development such as it did in 2016, when the Department of Tertiary Financing sponsored 600 students in studies with AAT (the Association of Accounting Technicians) to equip them with skills to work in the fast-growing financial services market.
AAT is not new to Botswana. It is the UK’s leading qualification and professional body for vocational accountants and has offered its AAT Accounting Qualifications in Botswana to over 4,000 students a year – the largest cohort of students outside the UK – for 26 years.
AAT works with the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA), to give students the opportunity to gain practical skills that fast track their careers in finance - without the need to go to university or study for many years.
While government involvement is critical, the private sector and business networks also need to step up to create opportunities for employment and advancement in the industry – in the form of internships and other opportunities – or by investing in their employees directly to upskill them.
Such an approach benefitted Pyoka Mfuni, a manager at accounting and auditing giant Grant Thornton. Mfuni says that after finishing high school, he noticed that many jobs advertised were finance and audit related so he decided to pursue a career in the field.
“That was when I discovered the AAT course at the Botswana Accountancy College. It was shorter than and relatively as good as an accounting degree.” After successfully completing his studies he was able to secure a foot on the ladder that led to his current role.
It is possible to replicate this success story.
The World Bank report, Doing Business 2017, ranks Botswana among Africa’s best performers. For the second successive year, the country’s ranking improved, from 72 to 71 out of 190 economies (from 74 to 72 in the previous year), making it the third best performer in Africa. The country is poised for growth and with the right investment and training, its people can take advantage of this.The added advantage of investing in financial skills is not only will it boost the finance sector itself, it is also good for business and entrepreneurship more broadly, fuelling the growth of the economy in other sectors too.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Botswana has one of the most entrepreneurial populations in Africa, but a lack of financial skills is holding it back from making a greater impact on the economy.
The message is clear, investing in finance skills makes sense and should be a priority for business and government alike in 2018.
With wise investment and by working together, they can continue to ride the wave of growth towards low unemployment and a high tech future!
First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) remains optimistic about its performance in 2018 considering the positive signs of economic recovery in the country.
FNBB Chief Executive Officer, Steven Bogatsu said they expect the economy to start showing positive signs of recovery in the short to medium term as the indications are that the diamond industry is recovering and the tourism and agricultural sectors are performing well.
“The improvement to business credit extension is further evidence that the economy is on the road to recovery and we believe that we can confidently look forward to a better 2018,” said Bogatsu.He said they are encouraged that the bank of Botswana perception index indicates that the business community is buoyant about the future prospects for the country.In the company’s 2017 annual report, Bogatsu highlighted that business confidence showed an improvement in the first half of 2017 and there has been some recovery in the commodity space. However there was no growth in diamond production, but diamond sales, which are mostly exports, were significantly higher than in the previous year.
Bogatsu said it has been a challenging year for FNBB and the tough trading conditions were exacerbated by the closure of major mines and associated business failures which placed a large number of consumers under considerable pressure and negatively impacted their disposable incomes. “Consequence to the bank was a sharp increase in non-performing loans, particularly in the retail consumer segment which rose to unprecedented levels,” said Bogatsu.The bank’s overall performance was also affected by the downstream businesses in the transport, hospitality, accommodation and associated service industries that supported the mines. The overall performance was relatively flat with profit before tax increasing by three percent to P680.3 million and profit after tax marginally down on the previous year at P500. 5 million. The balance sheet grew by eight percent with four percent increase in net advances.
First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) has partnered with Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) to develop the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) self service platform that allows customers to access WUC services through cellphones.
Launching the service on Tuesday, WUC Chief Executive Mmetla Masire explained that it offers customers the opportunity to pay for their water bill from the convenience of any location and it is accessible from all mobile devices across all cellular networks and WUC website.
“As an organisation in business, we are customer centric and strive to be abreast with information Technology developments for customers’ convenience hence we came up with these self service platform for our customers,” said Masire.
He said the collaboration solidifies their transformation journey from over the counter transactions to seamless self-service at customer’s convenience. “For me, this empowers water users with the much needed unlimited access to WUC services,” said Masire. The service is available to all WUC customers, even if they don’t bank with FNB. To use the service, customers are required to disclose the following: card number, Card Verification Value (CVV) number and card expiry date as well as customer and contract numbers with WUC. Users can also report issues such as leakages and enquire on outstanding bill statements. On the mobile phone, the service is available through the code: *186# and the service is accessible from all mobile devices across all cellular networks. The service is also available on the WUC website.
Masire also highlighted that WUC and FNB come a long way together as they partnered together with the German International Cooperation (GIZ) on a water conservation and water loss project in Gaborone, Mochudi and Lobatse named Somarela Thothi.
“This was successful as water conservation and water losses were reduced significantly saving 2.74 million cubic meters per annum. This translates to three percent of the total volume of water supplied annually,” said Masire.
For his part, FNB Chief Executive Officer, Steven Bogatsu said the partnership between FNB and WUC provides WUC with a cost effective revenue collection by bridging the gap between the payee and the payer. “From a management accounting perspective, it will also be easy for WUC to reconcile bill payments, a development we are proud to be a part of,” he said.
First National Bank Botswana is the ‘best bank in Botswana’. They were bestowed the award at the recently-held Euromoney Awards for Excellence’ in London recently.
According to a press statement, the Euromoney Awards for excellence have been running for more than 25 years. “Only those institutions that bring highest levels of service, innovation and expertise to their customers are honoured,” said the statement.
All banks in Botswana are eligible to enter the awards. Steven Bogatsu, the Chief Executive of FNBB is over the moon. “We are pleased to have been recognised as a leading player in the banking sector in Botswana,” he said. According to the CEO, the bank is driven by the need to provide best banking services to its clientele. “Our eBucks Rewards programme also scored us points,” he added.
The bank is better known for being the first to introduce cell phone banking, online banking, FNB APP, eWallet among others. Bogatsu has expressed gratitude to clients for their loyalty to the bank which turns 26 this year. Meanwhile, the bank has announced to shareholders that they will publish full year results on or about the 30th of August 2017. The bank, which is a subsidiary of FNB South Africa, has since declared a closed period. “During this period members of the board and staff of the company are prohibited from dealing directly or indirectly in the listed securities of the company,” said company Chief Finance Officer, Makgau Dibakwane.