by Sabrina Forbes. “Banking is just in between your life’s dreams and your hard work,” says Sbusiso Kumalo, Capitec head of brand marketing, explaining that true value lies in creating the right gateways for clients to make financial decisions in their best interest, and that being there to guide them through these decisions is what’s going to build long-lasting relationships.

Four fundamentals

Capitec logoCapitec’s unwavering commitment to improving the financial lives of its clients is fulfilled by following four fundamentals that govern the actions of everything the bank does, every day.

1. Simplicity

The brand believes that simplicity, delivered transparently, puts its clients in control of their money. Every touchpoint is designed with this in mind, from the design of the 840 branches around South Africa to the way it designs its banking solutions, pricing models, and digital services. Francois Viviers, Capitec executive: marketing and communications, explains how the design of each branch has purposefully been done to be accessible, open, and welcoming. An open environment with no double-security doors and a first-of-its-kind ticketing system, based on each client’s individual banking needs, create an experience he believes is key to the bank’s success.

“We have an open environment. A client is greeted when they enter the branch and receives a ticket based on [their] need and when [they sit] in front of a consultant, [they’re] served end-to-end by that consultant and never pointed to another queue somewhere else. The system is designed for side-by-side consulting so the client sees what is on the screen while the consultant is busy inputting it … the client feels in control of the process,” he adds.

Capitec keeps its pricing simple by having only five key, rounded, and fixed price points that clients need to know, making them simple and easy to understand. It’s not only the pricing that has been designed to be simple, according to Viviers, but also all communication, contracts, product design, app, UX and screen design, too: “All of that is there to communicate in a simple way and to make people feel in control of their money. It’s very much entrenched in our culture and I think in there lies the key to the success.”

2. Value for money

Capitec’s cost-conscious culture may easily be seen when visiting its offices. The office of Gerrie Fourie, Capitec chief executive officer, looks no different to the rest of the offices in the building. There are no plush carpets, mini-bar fridges, or expensive furniture. Every part of each office is functional. Viviers shares that it’s this cost-conscious mindset and how it pulls all the way through the business that allows the bank to take these savings and put them back into the pricing it gives its clients, adding that there has been a massive amount of backend functionality built into Capitec’s digital banking to further reduce pricing: “Our price-positioning is not about being the cheapest in the market and we know we’re going to be challenged on that by the new competitors. It’s not about the cheapest price; it’s about the best value for money.”

The consistent approach to cost savings has allowed the bank to reduce electronic funds transfer (EFT) rates from R1.60 to R1.00 and debit order fees from R3.72 to R3.50. It is leading the industry when it comes to real-time payment fees, reducing its from R10.00 to R8.00. “Other banks charge six times that amount,” says Viviers. “Our price is affordable. Our price is always affordable. We’re not running promotions or special[s]. Everybody gets the best value proposition and the best offer. What we’re doing fundamentally different than the traditional financial services model is that we are not segmenting the market, thereby discriminating our value proposition to the market. We’ve got one solution; we call it Global One. It consists of your transaction account with low fixed fees, four additional savings plans that you can personalise, access to a credit card and a funeral plan. Everyone gets exactly the same proposition… we’re fundamentally designing something that we believe will serve the needs of 95% of the market.”

Within every branch, there are just 10 client-facing consultants and one branch manager. No Capitec branches have any back-of-house admin offices. Less staff ultimately leads to more savings, again. Everything back-office or admin-related is done digitally and managed by a central team who assists every one of the 840 branches nationwide. The brand has also put effort into ensuring every product and service is rolled out into every branch, no matter the size or location. Examples of these are on-demand ticketing and real-time fingerprint authentication. “Capitec was the first bank to pilot biometrics and fingerprint recognition, and to link that to the department of home affairs in real time. Clients can open up an account in real time, which means a client walks in and walks out with an active [cheque or credit] card that works anywhere in the world,” says Viviers.

3. Accessibility

With 840 branches, extended trading hours of over 300 Sunday banking branches, and an in-house digital engagement team, Capitec aims to ensure that, whenever a customer is in need of assistance, accessing it is easy and effective. “This is how you design your processes to reinforce what you want the client to experience. It should almost become an unconscious thing, because we do it so often. We’re so pedantic about how much time a person waits to be served, how much time it takes to serve them. Even if you send a complaint or compliment on any channel, we’re pedantic about how much time and [whether] we [are] giving the right service as well. You have to reinforce your training. It has to be a part of the culture. We’ve spent quite a lot of time on people,” says Kumalo, reinforcing Capitec’s addition to the traditional Four Ps of marketing. For it, people and processes are just as important as product, price, place, and promotion.

“The complexity of the challenge we face going forward is our competitors and other bank’s competitors are not banks. We have experiential competitors. You use Uber once and, once you have used Uber, you leave… that experience with your perceptions and your expectations being significantly changed and you project that experience expectation on every other brand, so now suddenly, because Uber was such a slick and simple experience, you expect that same experience from your insurer, from your bank, from your cellphone service provider, from your retailers. It’s just not acceptable to wait 24 hours to get a service anymore; people want it right now and they want it seamless and they want it delivered on digital channels, and affordable,” says Viviers.

4. Client experience

The fourth fundamental encapsulates the others and stands as the basis for everything the 13 774 staff members work towards each day. Capitec aims to differentiate itself through a personalised, omnichannel client experience that aims to build long-term relationships with its clients. “The way that our fundamentals [are] ingrained in the business actually becomes a sense check. Whenever we make a decision, design a product, have pricing discussions — even marketing meetings — we can check it against whether it will be simple for a client, will it be affordable for a client, will it be easy to access it either through our 840 branches or on our digital channels… our fundamentals of simplicity, affordability, accessibility and a personalised service experience are entrenched through everything we do at Capitec, and you see that building the brand acceptance. We are seeing more and more now that people are not shy to take out their Capitec card when they pay in a restaurant; in fact, some people are very proud of it and they’re very vocal about it on social media. We have a very strong following of people on Facebook and Twitter that would not just promote Capitec but viciously defend Capitec if anyone said anything bad about the brand, which is a fantastic space to be in,” says Viviers.

In March 2019, and for the sixth consecutive year, Capitec won the latest South African Consumer Satisfaction Index, which measures overall customer satisfaction. In October 2018, Capitec was ranked as the best bank in South Africa in the latest Lafferty Global Ratings, being one of only eight banks worldwide to achieve a five-star top-quality rating.

Where it all started

Capitec Bank Holdings Limited was incorporated in South Africa on 23 November 1999 and registered as a bank controlling company, as envisaged by the Banks Act, on 29 June 2001. Capitec was listed in the banks sector of the JSE Limited on 18 February 2002.

Its 2019 financial results report headline earnings up 19% to R5.3bn with 11.4m active clients, 2.4m active banking app clients, and more than 360 000 active funeral policy holders.

What started as a small microlending financial services company has grown into a bank that, in January 2019, reportedly signed 266 000 new client accounts (with a large portion of account holders being under 30). In relative terms, that’s just under five times the capacity of Greenpoint Stadium.

“We evolved out of the ashes of microlending, which immediately posed a difficult challenge as a brand. because you ideally want to position a brand at the top end of the market and gradually make it available to a broad market. Capitec had to grow from the entry-level market and the unbanked, and start building stature to a place where it’s not [only] acceptable for people in higher-income segments but it’s actually becoming the preferred, smart way to bank. I think in the last couple of years we’ve seen that tipping point happen. We’ve seen people forget the legacy [of banking]” says Viviers, adding that there is a generation right now who have entered the space of banking and who don’t know or remember Capitec from 10 years ago. They aren’t jaded by the legacy of a stoic banking system and, for them, Capitec resembles a new way of banking where everything is affordable, transparent, client-centric and client-focused. “We truly and honestly not only just communicate the brand in that way; we actually run the business in that way,” he adds.

Changes & challenges in consumer education

Capitec currently has a client relationship with a third of the entire banked population of SA. Viviers states that the SA context is one of high levels of financial stress and pressure, and low levels of financial literacy. He understands that the bank not only has a responsibility to drive affordable, transparent banking but that it has, and recognises, its responsibility in helping people understand money better.

The bank has built in communication processes that, at every touchpoint, give its clients access to usable and relevant financial education, allowing them to make better decisions with their money. This is at the heart of what Capitec wants to offer its clients — an understanding of how to manage their money better to secure a strong financial future. Kumalo believes that the need for financial education has and will always be necessary, especially since, as people become more digital-connected and things become more accessible, so too does the temptation to buy.

The communication style Capitec adopts to educate its clients (and potential clients) is simple and uses straightforward thinking and terminology. “It’s important for a consumer to understand what it is that they’re doing and not have jargon or fancy words… ultimately, they need to feel confident because it’s them that we need to put in control of their money,” says Kumalo, adding that the bank’s communication focuses on client benefits, with the understanding that clients need to know clearly how something will empower them and allow them to better manage their finances.

“A lot of the times [a client’s] financial decisions are a result of other lifestyle choices, and often those choices are influenced by people’s ability to understand the implications of their decisions. It’s interesting how Christmas comes every year and still people never plan for it. They rather take credit to pay for their Christmas expenses. And people who own cars know [they] will need to be serviced at least once a year but still they don’t plan for it and they end up putting it on a credit card. There is a consumerism that drives the need to have badges and labels, and people would rather have that than planning for the future. We have behavioural data on our clients. We know where they spend their money and how they spend their money and, through machine learning and better data analytics, we can start sending clients messages at the relevant point in time to inform them on how they can spend and manage their money better,” says Viviers.

Branding a client-centric bank

Kumalo recalls that previously, the brand had a very rational argument for joining Capitec, fueled by the cost and ease of the product. Lately, with an increase in a higher-income client, it has found the need for a combination of the rational but also the emotive side of the human element to be added to marketing communications. “They have to feel more emotionally connected with the brand. We started our “bank better, live better” ad [and] launched it in 2017 and continued last year, and we’re still using that as our campaign platform,” says Kumalo.

In 2018, the team started to work on brand stature and reputation and, in October 2018, went live with a credit campaign using well-known businessman, entrepreneur, and self-made millionaire, Vusi Thembekwayo. The aim was to educate clients on the differences between good and bad reasons for applying for credit, with the ultimate goal of making clients question their behaviour around and relationship with credit.

For example, Kumalo asks which would improve your life: a R100 000 loan for a holiday or financing an MBA? The brand wants to show how clients may apply credit in a smart way to improve their lives. “Credit is like a chocolate cake: you eat one slice, it’s good — but, if you eat the whole cake, you’ll get sick. It’s not an issue with the chocolate cake; it’s an issue with the user. We really discourage consumption credit,” he adds.

“A lot of our marketing is becoming non-marketing. We are doing communication pieces where we’re telling people ways to better use their money, and this is how Capitec as a brand can be your financial partner. What we’re not doing is saying buy this, on promotion, special deals, and that kind of behaviour… marketing in many companies becomes the department that takes whatever the business or some actuaries have developed [and] they wrap it and they sell it to the market. At Capitec, marketing strategy and business strategy is one and the same. Marketing strategy informs business strategy and vice versa,” adds Viviers.

Changing the financial future of South Africans

The multidisciplined approach to the way Capitec uses marketing to educate, sell, and advise its clients (and potential clients) shows that its focused on not only pushing product but on changing the financial future of South Africans. It understands its power and that with it comes the responsibility to engage in a meaningful way, through whichever channel the consumer chooses, with the expectation of immediate response.

In conclusion, Viviers shares that the SA financial services industry is busy doing a lot of catching up development and that, in order to stay ahead, this is becoming more important as an increasing amount of disruptor brands are being birthed. “I think there are a number of other industries in SA that are very open to be disrupted in a very similar way that Capitec has disrupted banking, with an offer that is more client-centric, simpler, easier to access,” he adds. It’s just a matter of time to see which industries these might be.

See also


Sabrina Forbes“#AgencyFocus/#BrandFocus” is an ongoing weekly series updating the market on ad agency performance and brand, including innovation, initiatives, the work, awards, people and business performance.

Sabrina Forbes (IG) is an experienced writer covering the food, health, lifestyle, beverage, marketing and media industries. She runs her own full-stack web/app development and digital-first content creation company. For more, go to She is a contributing writer to

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