Daily Dispatch

Standard Bank feels 4IR burn


Standard Bank this week announced it is continuing with its branch-closing strategy, and has upped the closures from March’s estimated 91 banks to 104 nationwide.

Over 1,200 jobs are in the firing line, also increased from March’s estimated 1,000 employees. Three of the banks are in the Daily Dispatch readership area – Barkly East, Cala and Molteno. The other Eastern Cape branches closing are in Alexandria, and Linton Grange and Summerstra­nd in Port Elizabeth. The bank has defended its decision to reduce the number of branches, pointing to consumer behaviour and growth of digital banking, which drops walk-in customer numbers. However, many bank users from outlying areas in Eastern Cape do not have the infrastruc­ture to bank electronic­ally, forcing them to either change banks or travel vast distances to neighbouri­ng towns.

“The new figure of 104 closures is slightly misleading because it includes ten branches that closed in 2018,” said bank spokespers­on Ross Linstrom.

Linstrom said the new closures would be from June.

They were more in line with demands on efficiency than profit, and were a result of the bank relooking at its retail and business banking delivery model. “There is a misconcept­ion that 1,200 bank employees will be losing their livelihood­s, which is far from reality.

“Standard is doing everything in its power to keep people employed, but obviously not at branches destined for closure.”

Among initiative­s aimed at keeping people employed were a hold on all new employment and job freezing when people resigned (giving threatened employees a chance to apply).

In addition, Standard Bank would offer all employees – not those affected by the closures – an attractive retrenchme­nt package, and fill the gaps with people from the branches to be closed. Linstrom said he cannot give an exact estimate on the involuntar­y job losses.

He said the exit packages, for those employees who cannot be absorbed into the new system, far exceed the required settlement­s set out in the Labour Relations Act.

Standard Bank has set up a fund for retrenched people to acquire new skills and enhance their attractive­ness in the labour market, as well as giving them opportunit­ies to become entreprene­urs. Gauteng has had the biggest reduction, losing 49 branches, which is nearly 10% of all branches. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution disrupts traditiona­l ways of doing banking, the 104 closures is likely to be just the start of a long-term process in shedding outlets, and with it people. This reduction will be exacerbate­d by the “bank wars”, which have resulted in the big four – Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Standard – dropping client charges over the full range of banking products.

Closure of 104 branches blamed on consumer behaviour and growth of digital banking

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