Capitec CEO on micro-jobbing, working remotely and digital banking
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For Capitec CEO Gerrie Fourie, the 2019 Sunday Times Business Leader of the Year, the past six months have been about navigating the business through the economic crisis resulting from the lockdown. Fourie recently met his executive committee in person for the first time since March. He says he’s missed the interpersonal relationships.
The business’s priority in the early stages of the lockdown was to ensure staff were taken care of, followed by a focus on the bank’s client base. “We put a number of initiatives in place to make our customers’ lives easier, including payment breaks,” says Fourie.
He says his working hours have been long, but surprisingly productive. While he and his team have proved that working remotely is definitely possible, Fourie says it’s difficult to achieve balance when only working from home. “Person-to-person contact is important as far as leading, inspiring and motivating is concerned, as well as creating a company culture.”
Will work ever go back to being 100% at the office? Unlikely, says Fourie, adding that it’s looking more probable that there’ll be a hybrid between office and working remotely in the future.
Higher-income clients have not been as badly affected by the lockdown as middle-income clients. But the brunt of the economic crisis has fallen on low-income clients, who were unable to afford digital devices or connectivity and were therefore unable to even begin to pivot their income streams. Many lower-income jobs have been lost and most small businesses are employing less people than they used to, or have closed down.
The world has changed, says Fourie. The inequality gap is growing and consumer patterns are changing as materialism gives way to more traditional values such as family. Some trends are likely to persist even post the pandemic, such as health care being delivered via virtual consultations.
Capitec has noted a big uptake on digital banking and electronic payments. The number of deposits, surprisingly, has stayed relatively consistent, as have debt levels — clients are spending less during the hard lockdown. The bank’s ability to be agile will be increasingly important as it navigates its way through the economic crisis.
He believes that the new opportunities within this new consumer landscape will require a different mindset. “We’re going to have to think more along the lines of micro-jobbing as a way to create more flexibility in the job markets. At present, we think far too rigidly about staff in SA. Why not have three or four micro-jobs rather than only one job?”
Fourie also has strong opinions on education, which he says remains the country’s biggest challenge. Education, he says, requires a different approach. “Why do we only operate schools between eight till one in the afternoon? These assets should be made to sweat much more. And should we not be delivering education digitally?”
An economic recovery will require that the private sector and government work together, says Fourie. The latter needs to remove policy and regulatory uncertainty and provide greater clarity and direction to encourage investment.
“A focus on one or two key objectives will allow for a single-minded focus to ensure economic recovery, create jobs and lessen reliance on the social grant system. All of this, however, requires political will and the government collectively acting in the best interests of SA.
The Sunday Times Top 100 Companies annual awards is arguably the most prestigious event on the business calendar. This year, to support the social distancing initiatives — and as a sign of respect to our front line, health care, infrastructure, financial and consumer goods workers — the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies Awards in partnership with BCX announcement will take place online on November 12 2020 at 7pm.