As part of a concerted multichannel
investment programme, Barclays’ South Africa-based subsidiary ABSA
has unveiled its ‘Test Lab Branch’ concept store just outside
Johannesburg. ABSA’s branch investment programme complements the
release in May of its new online banking platform. Douglas


ABSA has ramped up its branch investment
strategy witht the launch of an innovative ‘Laboratory’ branch at
Clearwater Mall near Johannesburg.

ABSA is using the new branch as a test lab to
develop what it terms innovative products and processes prior to
rolling them out the remainder of its

ABSA will use the main banking space to
showcase community engagement and marketing promotions, such as its
extensive sports sponsorship.

The branch also features innovations such as
quick service enquiry points, interacive touch-screens and digital
communications via a 25-metre-long screen.ABSA branch

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Lisa Forshey, head of Absa sales and service
told RBI that the aim of the Branch of Tomorrow is to
ensure that the customer’s voice remains the driving force behind
banking initiatives.

“This innovative branch is a glimpse of the
future of retail banking in South Africa. It is tangible evidence
of what our customers have said they want,” said Forshey.

She added:

“We are really excited about the project. The
initial response from customers and staff has been really

“This Branch of Tomorrow, Today, shows that
ABSA is actively listening and responding to customer needs and
finding ways to meet their needs through simple and innovative
banking solutions.” 

The self-service Quick Service facility is
aimed at customers conducting low complexity activities without
traditional queuing, while the interactive touch-screens are
designed to make doing business with ABSA much easier.

“With a slight touch of the screen,
information about ABSA promotions and specials are at one’s
fingertips,” said Forshey.

Future innovations include plan to roll out
biometric fingerprint technology ion-branch.

Forshey was at pains to stress that cost
savings as a result of reducing in-branch headcount was not the
primary goal of the branch investment.

ABSA ended 2011 with a distribution network of
990 outlets and 9,540 ATMs serving 12.1m customers.ABSA branch on tomorrow

ABSA’s branch programme followed hot on the
heels of launch of a beta version of the online banking platform
that serves its 1.25m million internet banking customers.

According to Arrie Rautenbach, ead of retail
markets at ABSA, the new platform ushers in a new era in online
banking, with unprecedented levels of control and ease-of-use for
individuals and small business customers.

The overhaul of the ABSA online platform has
been in the development phase for two years and is designed to
represent a radical move away from what was a transactional online
service to a comprehensive suite of transactional and
non-transactional services, as well as personal financial
management tools.

Rautenbach says:

“The platform’s rich graphical interfaces
present a snapshot view of one’s day-to-day banking, investments,
other assets, and liabilities – allowing customers to better plan
their financial affairs.

ABSA’s online transaction volumes currently
account for around 33% of all transactions across all of its
channels nationwide.

Rautenbach adds: “By providing this
consolidated, dashboard view, we are putting the customer in
control and empowering them to make the right financial decisions,
budget more effectively, and unlock new opportunities for growth.
ABSA’s online banking customers hold investments and assets
totalling trillions of rand.”

Meantime, ABSA’s mobile banking channel
continues to enjoy growth in customer numbers with over 3m of its
customers using its three mobile channel offerings, processing in
the region of ZAR12bn in transaction values annually.