In recent times, technology has been touted for wielding great promise which banks can leverage to reduce the cost of delivering their services while enhancing customer convenience and increasing reach. Saddled by the weight of traditional banking models, banks have generally been slow to move and reap the rewards of the technology dividend. Lately, however financial institutions appear to be walking the talk, if developments during the month under review are anything to go by. Standard Chartered launched its first fully digital retail bank in West Africa, designed with continuous feedback from its clients. This marked an important milestone in the bank’s path of innovation. Earlier, Nedbank had launched South Africa’s first humanoid robot, Pepper, at its digital branch at the Sandton Gautrain station in Johannesburg. The robot can be programmed to recognise voice, principal human emotions, chat with customers and answer questions. In Zimbabwe, Steward Bank introduced Batsi, a customer service bot that uses artificial intelligence to respond to customer queries in real time. It will initially be available on the Steward Bank Facebook Page messages inbox but will eventually be rolled out to all customer facing platforms, according to Econet Wireless’ banking subsidiary. Batsi can assist with general product information queries, balance inquiry, airtime purchase for bank account holder’s registered number and internal bank transfer. These developments, leveraging on machine learning and artificial intelligence, inspire confidence and accordingly inform the basis of our theme for the month: Waking the Tech Talk. Finally, banks appear to have awoken from their deep slumber and are walking their technology talk.
Meanwhile, the International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated on the 8th March 2018 under the theme “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”. In celebration of the contribution of women in local financial services, some banks such as Barclays Bank and Stanbic published pictures of the women in their management teams, in the local media. The 8th of March was also World Kidney Day, an opportunity to reflect on the damage that the chronic kidney disease can do, to remember the millions who battle against it and the hundreds of thousands who die from it each year and to renew commitment to try to combat it. At an individual level, commitment to a healthy lifestyle and to drinking sufficient water will be helpful in lessening the risk of kidney disease and the non-communicable diseases that it can lead to. Coincidentally, in a month in which International Women’s Day was celebrated, this year’s World Kidney Day focused on Kidneys and Women’s Health. Chronic kidney disease affects about 195 million women worldwide. It is the eighth leading cause of women’s deaths, with about 600 000 dying from it each year.