Absa CEO Maria Ramos. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Absa CEO Maria Ramos. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Absa on Wednesday officially launched Whatsapp banking, in its latest push to become a digitally led African bank, with more than 10,000 customers already registered to date since early July.

The service faces competition from WeChat, China’s biggest internet-based mobile messaging platform, which launched in Africa in 2013 and offers an array of services including money transfers, prepaid electricity and airtime purchases.

Absa CEO Maria Ramos has drawn up an ambitious growth strategy to regain market share in retail banking at home, and to double sales across the continent from 6% to 12% after the bank’s separation from Barclays.

To achieve this, the group is adapting to changes in customer behaviour that requires banking to be available anytime, anywhere.

"As technology advances and more customers become connected, bringing banking to where our customers are is important to us, especially as we continue our journey to become a digitally led business driven by innovation," Absa’s chief executive of retail and business banking, Arrie Rautenbach, said in a statement.

Absa ChatBanking on WhatsApp went live on July 11. It allows Absa account holders to perform simple banking such as check their balance, buy airtime and make payment to an existing beneficiary, using conversational languages and short commands.

Speaking at the official launch event on Wednesday, Jacques Barkhuizen, Absa retail and banking’s chief information officer for virtual channels, said that apart from Facebook — which own WhatsApp — the bank had also partnered with mobile messaging firm Clickatell.

ChatBanking on WhatsApp follows the momentum created by the launch of Absa ChatBanking on Facebook Messenger and Twitter in 2016.

Separately, Société Générale is in talks with Absa about selling its local unit as the French bank prepares to pull out of Africa’s most industrialised economy, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.