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Nedcor aims to be different

South Africa

Walk into Nedcor's new corporate headquarters in Sandton - the Johannesburg suburb that has replaced the city centre as South Africa's business hub - and you would hardly guess that you are entering the nerve centre of one of the country's largest banks.

With its calm, tree-filled squares, acres of space, state-of-the-art design and university campus feel, the atmosphere is more akin to Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the HQ of Microsoft. Maybe that's no accident. As far as Nedcor's senior managers are concerned, the bank is all about technology. That, they believe, is what will give it the edge in the future.

"Although there's a slump in technology at the moment, there is no doubt that technology is the future of banking, finance and probably business as well," says Tony Routledge, the Nedcor executive board director responsible for strategy.

Putting this belief into practice has already resulted in some pain for the group. An 8% stake in London-listed South African wonder company Dimension Data, whose shares first soared and then slumped in the technology boom-bust, led Nedcor to write off R1.5 billion ($143 million) last year.

Management is, however, undeterred.

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