South Africa-based Capitec has
announced one of the most significant branch refurbishment and
expansion plans of the past year. It will open another 200 branches
and refurbish its existing 500 outlets, all based on an innovative
retail store concept in partnership with
retail designer allen international. Douglas


Since setting up shop in 2001,
Capitec has blazed a trail in South Africa attracting business from
the unbanked segment as well as winning market share from the
established Big Four retail banks which dominate the market: ABSA,
First Rand, Standard Bank and Nedbank.

Competitive pricing – Capitec
has prided itself on a low fee structure – and efficient
no-nonsense branch customer service have helped to establish
Capitec as a major player in South Africa.

Its customer based has grown to
3.5m and on 26 January opened its 500th branch, in
Morning Glen Mall, Sandton, north of Johannesburg.

The new branch represents a key point in Capitec’s ambitious
growth plans: the first outlet to showcase the bank’s new store
concept, developed in partnership with the leading UK-headquartered
retail designer allen International.

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MorningGlen Mallwill be the first of 200 new branches sporting
the new design to open over the next three years, a branch
investment of an estimated ZAR200m ($26m).

In addition to the branch expansion project, Capitec will
transform its existing 499 outlets to the retail store design in a
rolling programme over the next few years.

Capitec believes that the new store design will appeal to all
segments of the market, including the mass market segment as well
as entry-level customers, whom outside observers have tended to
associate with South Africa’s fifth-largest retail bank.

Speaking at the launch of the new store, Capitec
CEO Riaan Stassen explained the thinking behind the new
branch design and why the investment would pay off:

“In our view, there are seven points which the public are
questioning their banks about:

  • Why do clients still have to fill in forms when they go to a
    bank in this day and age?
  • Why can’t clients see what consultants have on their computer
    screens before them – it is not a secret?
  • Why do banks have glass barriers between the client and the
    customer – it restricts service?
  •  Why are Branch Managers concealed at the back of a
    branch, hidden away from clients? They should be the custodians of
    client relationships.
  • Why must clients stand in queues just to be told that they have
    the wrong information or documentation, or that they are in the
    wrong queue?
  • Why do banks close at 3.30pm in the afternoon, and why are they
    not open on Sundays?
  • Why are bank fees structured in such a confusing way?

“We live in the 21st century and technology should make access
to banking easier for clients. The banking experience needs to
change and banks must take ownership of helping clients manage
their financial lives better,” says Stassen.

The front of the new branches will be completely open and as no
cash is held in-branch, Capitec has fewer security concerns- and
costs-that would be applicable at the outlets of the existing Big
Four retail banks.

Capitec’s branch managers will be accessible in the new stores
and located at the front of the branch, to hammer home the message
of personal service.

“Top management must be regularly available in the forecourt of
branches to better understand how to address the service
requirements and needs of customers, says Stassen.

Customers will be seated next to branch staff so they can view
their accounts together on the consultant screen, instead of the
bank having ‘exclusive’ access.

“We believe personal interaction and support is very important
to consumers. At a time when banks are moving more and more online,
making their services faceless and impersonal, our view is that
consumers prefer the opposite.

“This is why we are structuring our brick-and-mortar environment
to focus on relationship building and client support, while our
virtual channels will continue to be used primarily to provide
easy, convenient access to transacting and information,” adds

This ‘humanness’ is also evident in the branch’s use of branding
and signage: A bold ‘Hello’ wall welcomes clients, while literature
is simple, clear and to the point.

“Offering communication in a client’s vernacular is key to their
understanding of our product. As such, everything is available in
English and the region’s mother dialect,” he says. Capitec Bank
employs consultants from the relevant areas to magnify this level
of personal service.

Another interesting feature is the use of the Capitec Bank logo.
Its red and blue colours, together with the central negative space,
create the flow of the branch where each side represents a division
– blue is for quick transactions and red for consulting and
service. These are clearly divided by the client waiting area,
which is situated under a bright sky light.

“The focus on ‘red’ or ‘blue’ enables clients to choose what
they want, making the in-branch process simpler and quicker.

But to speed things up even more, the branch’s Client Service
Champion greets everyone upon arrival, enquires as to their needs,
ensures that they have the necessary information to minimise
inconvenience for clients, and directs them to a Q-Matic waiting
system where they join the relevant seated queuing system.

Besides the new design features, some of the more traditional
ones remain. Among those is the biometric identification system
which Capitec Bank introduced to the South African market in

It uses a client’s fingerprints as verification for account
access, which simplifies service steps, reduces service time and
increases security.

Another cost saving efficiency is the absence of a branch back

“Our processes take place in realtime and there is no back
office which reduces our overheads. This benefit is directly
transferred to our clients in the form of lower fees.”

Capitec has been growing its customer numbers at around 90,000
per month in the past year. Product innovation in the next 12
months will include filling in some of the gaps in Capitec’s
product range, such as the introduction of a credit card

Any such product launch will further enhance Capitec’s growing
appeal to wealthier segments of the market.