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Tight race for African banks courting retail clients 

By Bisi Lamikanra, Partner, Project Africa Banking, KPMG Nigeria.

A newly released KPMG study reveals the triumphs and challenges of African banks as they battle to win customer satisfaction and seize marketshare.

Tight race


With African economies on the upswing, competition is heating up among the region’s banks to expand and launch new distribution strategies. As each bank sprints to build market share and profitability, a new study by the KPMG Project Africa Banking team highlights the successes and outstanding challenges of the banks in meeting the expectations of their clientele.


Released in April 2013, the inaugural edition of the KPMG Africa-wide Banking Industry Customer Satisfaction Survey, provides a comprehensive snapshot of customer perceptions, based on a survey of more than 25,000 retail banking customers in 14 countries – from Angola to Zimbabwe – during 2012.


Among the report’s findings, and of little surprise to regional observers, financial stability was the leading reason that customers maintain bank relationships in 11 of 14 nations. This sentiment possibly arises from recent interventions by African regulators who have made consumers question the strength and capital levels of their local banks.


But institutional strength isn’t everything. Survey participants voiced clear expectations of good service, with many calling for friendlier staff and faster, more effective complaint resolution processes.


Surveyed customers also called for improved banker knowledge of products. For example, 70% of those polled stated that they did not feel they received the necessary assistance to understand bank products, and less than 10% were very satisfied with how banks delivered their services.


Although the survey results reveal the dominance of branch and ATMs over other channel options, it also highlighted the considerable activity by regional banks in new distribution strategies. African banks have been early adopters of alternative payment channels, ranging from the much-admired implementation of mobile payments by cellular devices in Kenya , to the widely-adopted Point of Sale technology by consumers in Botswana.


Despite these best practices in emerging channels, survey respondents still placed high importance on banks improving turnaround times for transaction processing and the accuracy of statements and advice slips. Customers also expressed dissatisfaction with some bank pricing practices as well as methods used by banks to notify customers of rates, fee changes and conditions.


While the KPMG report provides in-depth market-by-market analysis of the data, and identifies the top five most customer-focused banks in each feature country, a common theme echoes across the continent: African banks have made good progress, but they need to maintain their financial stability and sharpen their customer service capabilities if they hope to grow their markets.

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