South Africa’s Bidvest revamps business bank 
as more customers shift online

JOHANNESBURG • Bidvest Group Ltd is revamping operations at its South African business-banking unit to offer more online services as customers increasingly shun trips to branches.

The move comes as smaller South African lenders seek ways to boost revenue and challenge the country’s so-called Big Four groups.

Capitec Bank Holdings Ltd is also looking to strengthen its offering to small and medium enterprises, and at least three other companies are starting new retail banks.

Bidvest Bank — which lends to businesses, individuals and offers financing for fleets of vehicles — sees strong demand for business-banking services among its client base, CEO Lindsay Ralphs told reporters by phone on Monday.

“A lot of that small-business banking is going purely online,” the CEO said.

“The industry is changing dramatically and we have scaled back on our brick-and-mortar branches.”

Bidvest is seeking to improve the banking unit, among other divisions, after reporting flat revenue growth in the six months through December.

While the Johannesburg-based company will focus on the domestic finance market, operations such as hygiene services could grow internationally.

“We have identified hygiene services as one of our key potential expansion areas,” Ralphs said.

“The geography we look at is not that important.

“I think what is important is that we buy into certain geographies and become a meaningful player in that market.”

Bidvest’s first-half earnings, excluding some items, increased 10% to 2.1 billion rand (RM601.23 million) despite the lack of revenue growth.

Trading profit for Bidvest Bank was up 8.3% in the period, the company said in a statement. The shares were little changed.

Ralphs will step down during the 2021 financial year, to be replaced by Mpumi Madisa, currently an ED. — Bloomberg