First National Bank's (FNB's) owner this week shrugged off the enthusiasm of newcomer institutions for behavioural banking as "the flavour of the month". After almost a quarter of a century of dominance by the so-called big four - FNB, Standard Bank, Nedbank and Absa - SA's retail banking sector is becoming a fierce battleground as branchless, data-driven lenders, notably Discovery and TymeBank, enter the market. Both new entrants are touting their ability to turn masses of data into tools that will influence client behaviour. "Hype," said Alan Pullinger, CEO of FirstRand, which owns FNB. "We've been using behavioural analytics for about two decades now." Despite feeble growth in SA, which held back Rand Merchant Bank and vehicle finance business WesBank, FirstRand's profits for the six months to end-December were buoyed by a 13% rise in earnings from FNB. After years of raking in data through its eBucks rewards programme, the bank is now hitting a sweet spot as it cross-sells and "...

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