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Examining Customer-Centric DNA

Nedbank Embarks on a Client-Centric Journey

The banking industry has traditionally not been known to be client-centric. However, cutthroat competition and more discerning customers have impelled a number of banks to start focusing on becoming just that.

Nedbank, one of South Africa's largest banks, is one financial organization that's aspiring to be totally client-centric. In the words of Doug Hardie, executive general manager at Nedbank, "we want to get to the stage where client centricity becomes part of our DNA."

Cognizant that this is not an overnight endeavor, Nedbank embarked on a journey towards client centricity five years ago. Hardie says the team spearheading the change recognized that the only way to succeed was if the transformation was embraced whole-heartedly by the company's leadership. While this took some time, Mike Brown, the bank's chief executive, is passionate about being client sensitive and has surrounded himself with like-minded people. "That passion is shining through very clearly in everything the leadership team does," Hardie says. "This has to be the single, most-important success factor." The commitment towards client centricity is deeply embedded in the bank's strategy and three-year-plan's aspiration to "build many deep and enduring client relationships."

The very first step was identifying areas within the organization that were not working as well as they should. "We had to start working consistently on a strategic journey to get the basics right," says Hardie. After addressing the fundamentals, the bank started working upwards, methodically and consistently bringing change to all tiers of the organization.

In order to deliver world-class service, Nedbank's leadership was committed to creating brand ambassadors, starting with its own employees. The organization embarked on a seven-pillar strategy to make sure it had the right people in place:

  •   Getting its employees to be more client-focused
  •   Making the recruitment and selection process more client-centric
  •   Enhancing the induction process to expose new hires to the organization's service-driven culture
  •   Developing the right skills through a robust learning and development curriculum
  •   Empowering staff members to deliver a magical client experience
  •   Measuring the day-to-day processes
  •   Rewarding and recognizing the right behavior, making it the focus of the organization

Underpinning all the pillars is a robust change management and communication strategy. To instill an effective client engagement culture, Nedbank reviewed its client communications and created its Believe to Achieve charter for customers:

  • Know me and understand my aspirations
  • Listen and care about my financial fitness
  • Treat me with respect, value, and appreciate me and my business
  • Give me great advice to make smart financial decisions
  • Deliver with diligence—I only Ask Once
  • Give me great value banking

An essential ingredient in this journey was to undertake an outside-in view from the clients' eyes. Hardie says this practice went from being an aspiration to increasingly manifesting itself in forums, decision-making, and informed strategies.

Measurement drives momentum
"Any strategic change journey requires constantly measuring and tracking improvements. In order to succeed Nedbank established a robust voice of the customer strategy," Hardie explains. Although the organization had been tracking its client focus and Net Promoter Score (NPS) through an annual industry study, to maintain momentum the bank wanted to establish an in-house client management capability.

"We developed a 35-associate outbound contact center to reach out to clients within 48 hours of an interaction with the bank while the experience was still top of mind. After analyzing the 150,000 surveys that are completed annually, a team of statistical experts score the results and mine client insights allowing the team/bank to make incremental improvements in service-delivery," Hardie says.

Through this process, Nedbank found that up to 8 percent of clients still had an unresolved issue at the time of contact, and established new processes to make sure the issue was resolved within that same telephone call, either by the person conducting the survey or by special resolution experts, ensuring clients' satisfaction when they get off the phone.

"You need to have a very robust measurement engine in place as a foundational step to start building more aspirational initiatives," Hardie says. The process allows for an extreme level of granularity to the point where Nedbank is able to produce an NPS for its individual bankers, creating clear targets in staff members' scorecards that are directly linked to the client experience being delivered.

However, measuring on its own is not enough. Hardie underlines the need to bring an organizationwide cultural revolution that encourages employees to change their behavior as they interact with clients, while also promoting a more client-centric experience with internal clients. One of the ways Nedbank began manifesting its commitment to clients was through its "Ask Once" promise, through which the bank pledges to resolve client requests the first time around. In case the bank fails to keep this promise, it will make a donation in the client's name to the client's choice from a list of charities.

"This was a very clear commitment to clients and non-clients alike that we were determined to start fixing the basics and embark on a client-centered journey," Hardie adds.


This strategy demonstrates that Nedbank not only knows about its clients, but also knows them individually. Hardie says the company's strategy has driven impressive results. In the first half of the year, NPS has increased "drastically" across the board, reaching in excess of 80 percent in some channels. This lift after a five-year journey is believed to be due to the different initiatives meshing together and starting to drive real change. "We got to the critical stage where the cohesiveness of the initiatives started to drive real results."

Customer acquisition rates also improved, which were below the bank's expectations three years ago. These have since increased and compare with those of international retail banks. With the help of Peppers & Rogers Group, Nedbank now better understands the causes of attrition and has identified 16 initiatives to address this problem.

Despite its achievements, Nedbank's leadership recognizes that the bank still has more to do to achieve its goals. "It has been a long journey with a lot of hard work and dedication—we are delighted that we are half way there," Hardie says.

Through these various but complementary initiatives, Nedbank continues in its efforts toward building deeper relationships with clients. The bank's most current initiative includes a coordinated review of its client loyalty strategy with the goal of deepening relationships with clients in real time.