Lunch with Michael Jordaan

Yesterday, the Class Of group shared lunch with Michael Jordaan, FNB CEO, and Alan Pullinger, RMB CEO. The Class Of programme is an initiative started by Paul Harris that looks to bring in talented young professionals with a hunger for investment banking into RMB. You can read more about the program here. The alumni network that exists for Class Of is incredibly strong, with Michael Jordaan being one of the early members of the programme, and hence our interest in chatting to him.

It was fascinating to see the fluidity and breadth, as well as the depth of insight he has not only into his business, but into the economics of the country, international competitors, and the way that he sees retail banking developing into the future. As a person, he boasts a PhD, and started as a bank teller and then moved up the ladder to become the CEO at the tender age of just 36. He is also a wine farmer.

A number of interesting conversations unfolded, the most memorable of which for me were these:

Quicksell was an initiative set up in light of the high number of reposed houses on banks’ books. For customers that accept that they can no longer service their mortgage, houses are taken back by FNB and marketed through quicksell.co.za to new potential buyers. The current owners do not stand to go through the traumatic process of eviction and auction, and new buyers are in some cases given 100% bonds, reduced transfer and initiation fees, and ultimately a discounted house.

South Africa is currently the 3rd worst globally in terms of online phishing and scams. FNB is faced with the ongoing challenge of maintaining convenience of use of Internet Banking whilst keeping fraud in check. Apparently, it happens that for credit card transactions below a certain limit, point-of-sale devices often don’t dial in to the bank for transaction verification. This allows for stolen cars, or “hotcards” to still be used for small transactions. It is only through tracking usage patterns that the thief can be found. In one case, a guy was paying for his round of Saturday golf with the hotcard – FNB then nailed him at the course!

FNB Connect is a recent product added to the FNB stable. FNB branches are wired to all connect over the internet for business purposes and effectively runs a massive billing platform. But this all happens during business hours, and the infrastructure sits idle during the night. This was then leveraged into FNB Connect, which allows customers to make use of the bandwidth at very low rates. So simple, yet so clever!

Underpining all the developments at FNB are innovation, staff engagement, and a focus on technology. Michael believes that the best ideas for business can be constructed and realised by the staff, within branches and doing daily work. There is a large amount of focus and energy dedicated to growing and supporting these innovative and entrepreneurial developments. And then the obvious drive towards a more technologically connected society, which will allow retail banking to be made easier and more accessible to the country and FNB’s African footprint. FNB feels that if they focus on developments in the online space (think @RBJacobs, FNB & Paypal, Fuel Rewards etc) they will stay well up the curve as the market moves and evolves.

So all in all, a very inspiring talk. It’s great to see the youth and dynamic approach of leaders making a difference in everyday lives. And done with a wonderful balance between ambitious intent and an appreciation of people.

Get in touch with me if you’d like to hear more about Class Of, and if you’d be interested in applying.

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