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Leading the digital transformation in Ghana

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Mansa Netty, Chief Executive, Standard Chartered Bank Ghana Limited
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Standard Chartered’s refreshed strategy in Ghana is proving a success story.

In 2016, Ghana was emerging from an economic crisis. One of Africa’s most stable economies, the country had nevertheless been hit by plunging oil, gold and cocoa prices, driving down export revenues. Public spending and debts had also risen. For Standard Chartered, one of Ghana’s longest established commercial banks, however, it was also a time of new beginnings.

Early in 2017, Mansa Nettey became CEO. The bank had already refreshed its strategy to build on its strong foundations, focusing on investment and innovation, especially in areas where the bank had a competitive advantage.

However, when Ms. Nettey took over at the helm, the bank had almost been deemed too successful in its transformation. Sometimes organizations move faster than the people within them, and Ms. Nettey is the first to admit that while employees were put first during the drive to evolve, the bank began to get ahead of its ability to convey its vision to customers and members of staff who were anxious about what the changes might mean for them.

Bringing people together

To regain focus and the commitment of every employee, and to get the best out of them, the way in which staff were recognized and rewarded for their efforts also needed to change.

“It was time to be introspective, to put our employees first and to listen to their issues. After all, it’s people who deliver our results,” Ms. Nettey says. “We needed to reorient thinking towards a focus on growth, to becoming more competitive and digitally-based, and we needed to communicate decisively.”

She set out a clear path for employees and launched a ‘People First’ campaign, in which human relationships were at the centre of all interactions with customers, encouraging every employee to deliver a memorable customer experience, every time.

Almost four years later, she regards the focus on employees as the most decisive element in the bank’s subsequent transition to an organization in which tasks could be executed at high speed.

By creating an environment where staff could play to their strengths, they were able to see how they could individually make a difference and contribute to the shared goal of delivering outstanding customer service, neatly encapsulated by the bank’s #makingmemorableexperience programme, which encourages staff to consider their role in every client interaction.

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Standard Chartered staff have focused on creating memorable experiences for clients.

As such a long-established bank, Standard Chartered unsurprisingly has many customers who have remained with the bank over the years; often well into their later life. Yet Ghana is a youthful nation, and 60% of the bank’s workforce are millennials. It soon became clear that none were better placed to take forward the bank’s digital revolution than its younger employees.

New areas of focus

In 2019, the bank started offering end-to-end client onboarding as well as up to 70 in-branch service requests via mobile. It also launched a full digital bank on mobile, SC Mobile – the first in Ghana. Clients can now make international and local payments in real time, and can transfer local and international funds and access a suite of wealth management products through the app.

With the launch of the SC Mobile App, Standard Chartered Ghana tripled the number of accounts opened each month. Earlier this year, Standard Chartered won Euromoney’s award for 'Africa's best bank transformation 2020'.

Success in digital banking does not depend on technology alone, important though it is. “From day one, we have wanted to be known as an agile, digital bank, with a human touch,” says Sheikh Jobe, COO. “In the past three years, we have made good progress in transforming the organization into a higher performance bank with a highly engaged workforce, by embedding innovation in alongside our clients, and continuously learning and improving by working together with customers.”

This investment in technology will continue, its value proven beyond all doubt when the coronavirus pandemic necessitated 90% of the bank’s workforce had to suddenly work from home earlier this year.

Local roots and a global franchise

Established in 1896, Standard Chartered is the oldest bank in Ghana. As one of the international banks operating in Ghana, Standard Chartered is unique in also being local in its operations and listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange. This provides it with local knowledge backed by an unparalleled international network.

In the wake of the humanitarian problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the bank has supported its clients as well as the vulnerable in the local community. In addition to committing $700,000 to help fund local initiatives dealing with the pandemic – such as providing relief items for street children and literacy packs for children out of school in remote areas – the bank also provided PPE to healthcare workers in hospitals and isolation centres, and testing equipment for diagnostic centres.

Globally, the bank has also committed $1 billion of financing for companies that provide goods and services to help the fight against Covid-19, and those planning to switch to making products that are in high demand to combat the pandemic across the markets it operates in, including Ghana. Some of the help offered could only come from a major and well-resourced organization like Standard Chartered, such as relief programmes for corporate, business and retail clients, including interest rate reductions, tenor extensions or fee waivers, or feeding up to 800 street children a day.

Standard Chartered Ghana has a long history of working with both global and local NGOs and educational establishments and has been committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals since they were agreed – with the aim of becoming the leading private sector catalyser of finance for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The bank recently published a report on the socioeconomic impact of its lending to the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors in Ghana, drawing on both quantitative and qualitative assessments. As Xorse Godzi, Head of Client Coverage, Corporate, Commercial and Institutional Banking observes: “We are the first bank in the country, as far as we know, to have measured the impact of our activity in Ghana and lending for sustainable finance in this way.”

That local impact is significant. Standard Chartered’s activities were found to have contributed 1.1% of Ghana’s GDP and supported more than 121,000 jobs in 2009. The bank has also committed to environmental targets, introduced sustainable finance criteria, launched measures to tackle financial crime and invested in numerous community projects. In terms of financial innovation, new products and digitalization has provided access to banking services for thousands of Ghanaians.

Such success clearly creates a sense of pride within the organization, and even in the current difficult circumstances, Ms. Nettey remains positive.

“The world is changing,” she says. “The pandemic has transformed us into an even more digital bank. The work we did before has enabled us to respond quickly and remain connected with our clients. It is a difficult time for many, but the future is bright.”

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