An Open Letter to Jacques Cilliers – Goodbye FNB

Attention: Jacques Cilliers
CEO, First National Bank
Bank City

Dear Mr Cilliers

new FNB CEO, Jacques Cilliers appointed in 2014
new FNB CEO, Jacques Cilliers

After 11 years I decided to close all my bank accounts with First National Bank. One reason is because I’ve moved to China and have no plans to return to South Africa while Jacob Zuma is president. The more serious reason is the horrendous experience of passing the buck and customer service I’ve experienced.

This was personal on so many levels. And yet I’m haunted by Don Miguel Ruiz’s admonition: Don’t Take Anything Personally. This is extremely difficult for me because I was almost born into this bank. My mother worked for FNB from the time it was Barclays Bank until retiring in 2009 after 33 years. I was also staff member in 2003 working in Randburg Computer Centre with a direct responsibility for keeping the Internet banking systems safe and secure from hackers.

My own experience working for your bank and my mother’s experience was never great. But that’s another story.

When companies think their brand is the best, they become arrogant. When companies rely on social media characters not real people to deal with customer complaints they begin a slippery slope towards self destruction. Your RB Jacobs has been a spectacular success on social media but dare I say not in the real world.

People connect with people. We all want to believe they connect with brands after doing completing our MBA degrees. But no, the plain and simply fact is that what made banks valuable, and bank managers important and esteemed decades before was the personal care and maybe even compassion shown by the bank managers and staff. When I was very young and my mother took me to the branch office in Main Street, Port Elizabeth, I felt this personal touch from her manager.

She was devastated when he resigned after a long service. So why do I keep harping on about my mother. Maybe it’s because FNB felt like family to me. I still have scraps of yellow paper she brought home for me to practise my drawing on. I had got the “BOB T” accounts when they were launched and become well versed in banking vernacular over the years.


Your RB Jacobs team have helped me resolve issues speedily and efficiently in the past. However, I was sure that this function was outsourced because some time ago I became aware that the eBucks social media account was given to Cerebra. So I assumed that RB Jacobs was not an internal function but being outsourced. And even though they have claimed being full-time staff, I still have my doubts knowing how bad big corporates are managing social media in general.

Trying to reset my cheque card pin was the turning point for me. It’s not the first time I was shoved from Twitter to email to call centre, back to social media and email. On several occasions I’ve tried to educate your call centre staff about the complexity of your password protocols used in online banking. FNB made over R7 billion in pre-tax profits in 2013 and you punish customers with a R50 fee to reset their password via a human being in a call centre.

When RB Jacobs tries to be helpful on Twitter, I never know whether I’m dealing with the same person on email. Clearly from the replies I’ve receive they are not the same person. And since I am social media trainer, I’ve conducted a workshop in 2012 where your bank’s social media manager was among the delegates. So I have inside information.

Suffice it to say the link between social media and customer service is so delicates because of all the variables at play. I implore you to reconsider your strategy and find a way to restore the humanity to customer service and banking. While I felt my request was simple, so many of your staff seemed incapable of treating me with humanity and civility, to the point I broke down and started screaming at a call centre agent who told me to go to into a branch to reset my pin, AFTER I told him very nicely I was in China.

The kicker is this, only after I told RB Jacobs on Twitter, Facebook and email I’m closing my account, for good; did someone miraculously emerge. Even though I told this person, Mandisa Viteka, they saved a long term relationship, I decided to go ahead and close my eyes.


When I approached them to help me regain access to my online banking account, they didn’t hesitate to respond. A real person, not a social media smartass contacted me via email and set-up a Skype call. They authenticated me and are now dispatching the dongle needed to access Capitec Bank’s online banking securely, at their cost not mine!

The biggest lesson for you from Capitec Bank is: LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS and STOP BELIEVING YOUR OWN HYPE. When you realise how easily you can address customer service issues, by simply listening, you will be surprised how much easier it is to maintain long term relationships.

Over the years I’ve had several intense arguments with your call centre staff because I’m not the average joe. As you know I’ve a +30 year history with FNB, and also worked for the company. So I dare say, I know the Hogan system and the internal workings. Your company has never appreciated people like me nor my mother, and from this day, I make it my life’s mission to help people move to Capitec Bank.

Why Capitec is better than FNB:

  1. Only one bank account instead of a dozen
  2. Paying interest to me of 4.4% while many of your accounts pay ZERO interest
  3. Mobile baking + Online banking is easy and cheap like yours
  4. Younger employees in the branch, who do not have the attitude of many older FNB branch staff
  5. Simplicity in products you can only dream about

So it’s with no regret I bid you a farewell Mr Jacques Cilliers, new CEO, by writing this open letter to you. You have a hard act to follow in Michael Jordaan. In many ways his personal interactions with me via Twitter and at the FNB App launch, delayed the insatiable.


Smartphone the surprise newcomer in mobile race

Johannesburg:- Smartphones have made a dramatic entry into corporate South Africa, far surpassing general consumer use or small business use.

This is a surprise finding from a new research study released today by World Wide Worx. The Mobile Corporation in SA 2010 report reveals that three quarters of South African companies have deployed smartphones within their organisations, compared to almost none two years ago.

The study, backed by First National Bank (FNB), leaders in cellphone banking in Africa, and Research In Motion (RIM), the developer of the BlackBerry solution, shows that saturation point has almost been reached by large South African companies in the use of fixed landlines (96%) and ordinary cellphones (92%). And, as forecast in 2007, 3G data card penetration has also reached near saturation, with 94% of large companies deploying it. Now the focus has turned to integration of smartphones with business processes.

“These results show that enterprise mobility solutions are no longer just nice to have. They’re essential for businesses that want to be competitive, responsive and efficient in a world where a customer won’t wait for a salesperson who is visiting customers and where project flow can’t stop because a manager is at a full-day meeting,” says Deon Liebenberg, Regional Director for Sub Sahara Africa at RIM. “Not only does mobility allow companies to improve internal efficiencies and communications, it also enables them to interact more effectively with their increasingly mobile customers.”

The study also showed that corporate South Africa expects to embrace the new world of online services to an extent that was not even anticipated as recently as one year ago.

“Until last year, concepts like Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud Computing were regarded as little more than buzzwords,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.

Continue reading “Smartphone the surprise newcomer in mobile race”


FNB CEO Michael Jordaan’s open letter published in Beeld

This seems to have been a good idea in principal. It’s a pity Michael Jordaan does not have the spine to resist the pressure from trade union Solidarity or white staff. My own experience with FNB since the age of 5 years old has been mostly good. That was until I started my own business in 2004 and that’s when the shocking truth of how banks see entrepreneurs in South Africa began to emerge. They are all part of a global cabal who has nothing better to do that charge high interest, ridiculously high banking fees for even depositing cash into your bank account. No wonder black people mostly withdraw the full amount of cash after they get paid to avoid paying bank fees on this or that 🙁

FNB CEO Michael JordaanFNB CEO Michael Jordaan’s open letter published in Beeld today on the issue of FNB’s equal access to educational assistance:

Eerste Nasionale Bank het die afgelope week of twee onder kwaai kritiek deurgeloop oor ’n beursskema wat vanjaar vir die eerste keer beurse gaan uitbetaal aan die kinders van die bank se swart werknemers wat ingevolge die voorwaardes van die skema vir die beurse kwalifiseer.

Continue reading “FNB CEO Michael Jordaan’s open letter published in Beeld”


Mobility 2009 reveals South Africa's cellular gap

FNB and Blackberry back 2009 study

The South African cellular market reached a milestone of 50-milion connections at the end of 2008 – but only 68% of these represented individual users.

This is the first key finding from preliminary research conducted by World Wide Worx for its 2009 annual Mobility study, backed by First National Bank (FNB), leaders in cellphone banking in Africa, and Research In Motion (RIM), the developer of the BlackBerry solution.

Their sponsorship will make it possible to uncover the most significant trends shaping smartphone usage, mobile technology, mobile commerce, the mobile Internet and cellphone banking in South Africa. The Mobility project is respected in the mobile industry for its in-depth research into mobile trends across the corporate, SME and consumer sectors.

“The research will assist in amplifying investment opportunities in the technology, says Len Pienaar, CEO, FNB`s Mobile and Transact Solutions. “In South Africa, cellphones have become the most easily accessible and convenient way of offering services to remote areas, and an understanding of cellphone usage and trends is necessary to leverage the technology effectively.”

“The findings of the preliminary research for the annual Mobility survey confirm that South Africa’s cellular market continues to enjoy robust growth, even with market penetration at around 100%,” says Deon Liebenberg, Regional Director for Sub Sahara Africa at RIM.

“Our own experience reflects that it is not only the number of cellular connections that is growing, but also the applications for which subscribers are using their smartphones. Mobility is changing people’s personal and business lives by allowing them to stay in touch with information, applications and other people wherever they are.”

Preliminary research for Mobility 2009 was based on analysis of Government and institutional data, as well as personal interviews with key role players in the cellular sector, including network operators and wireless application service providers.

The research shows that the average number of SIM connections, or active cellphone accounts, per cellphone user in South Africa began to grow steadily after pre-paid accounts were introduced in 1996. It grew from an average of 1 SIM card per phone user in 1997 to 1.2 per user in 2003 and to 1.47 per user at the end of 2008. The gap between users and connections is expected to continue to grow as both consumers and businesses find more innovative approaches to cellphone usage.

“This gives the impression that every South African has a cellphone, but that is obviously not possible,” says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck, who is leading the Mobility 2009 project. “It’s become clear that many pre-paid users have a SIM card for each major network, to avoid incurring the interconnection fee charged for calls between networks. The low cost of new SIM cards – as little as 50c for a starter pack – also gives anyone the ability to have more than one number.”

The interconnect fee adds R1.25 to the cost of every call, and has prompted new approaches to cellphone usage in South Africa. Mobility 2009 will also reveal further innovative approaches taken by both consumers and business users to make their cellular lives more effective.

“Cellphone functionality has progressively grown beyond the traditional voice and SMS. With the growing trend towards cellphone banking, mobile media, mobile marketing and mobile internet access. In-depth understanding of consumer perceptions and trends is critical in addressing the needs of the consumer,” says Pienaar.

“RIM looks forward to seeing further findings from Mobility 2009. The research should paint an interesting picture of how people and businesses in South Africa are using their smartphones to be more productive and efficient,” says Liebenberg. “It will be particularly interesting to see what the latest trends in the mobile Internet space are. We believe that there is a massive opportunity to bring mobile Internet services to more of the country’s people through affordable pre-paid services.”


For more information, contact:

· Virginia Magapatona, FNB, Head of Corporate Communications, on + 27 (0) 11 371 9330 or + 27 83 257 2777 or by e-mail on

· Christa Botha, Corporate Communications: Sub-Sahara Africa Research In Motion, on +27 82 562 5264 or by e-mail on

* Arthur Goldstuck, MD, World Wide Worx, on +27 11 782-7003 or by e-mail on


How to avoid phishing emails from South African banks

For the first 8 years of my professional career I specialised in information security or Internet security working for various ISPs and banks in South Africa, England and United Arab Emirates. The particular focus I had was looking after the network security and managing the firewalls. So for the most part my work was extremely technical and I implement many security systems from the smallest companies to very large corporates. At some point I worked for Deloitte and gained an appreciation for auditing computer systems, ethical hacking as well as producing management reports assessing the major risks of the computer system in terms of the business imperatives. I met many weird and interesting characters who were either black hat or white hat hackers over the years. One of them is a very good friend who shall remain unnamed and once hacked into the company who hosts the email and websites for the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP.

Anyway the phishing emails, which are now common from local South African banks, came through from international banks as far back as 5 years ago. Back in 1997 I worked for Internet Solutions who implemented both Nedbank and First National Bank’s Internet banking products and this gave me the inside scoop like nothing else. I immediately adopted online banking being a long-term client of FNB because my mother worked for them for last 32 years. As a long time user of online banking I have seen various trends come and go but this phishing trend is only growing bigger and more pervasive. And I can say with 100% confidence I’ve never been duped into following up on phishing requests. It’s really simple for because I have 15 years of experience on the Internet I can recognise these fake emails a mile away. How do you recognise these phishing emails from your local South African bank?

First National Bank South Africa phishing email

Firstly these emails are coming through much more frequently than your bank bothers to communicate with you. If banks only began communicating with educational marketing messages they could have avoided some of the embarrassment they have since faced.

The basic thing to do here is to look at the link for the website. So even though the link above said the actual link would be more like http://somespammerwebsite/fnb – what you need to do is look at if the link address (while hovering your mouse over the underlined, linked text) is the same as your bank’s actual website domain e.g.,, or!

I have also noticed phishing emails coming from Investec and other financial services companies, NOT just the banks.

When you’re in doubt delete all such email requests. And an even better solution is to use your email software like Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird or Gmail to list them as spam, if the email software has not done so already. Finally I highly recommend you read up on the consumer advice from the Anti-Phishing Working Group and apply all the same to South African Internet experience.


WWW2007 – Keynote – Dr Chris Kotze FNB Online Banking in South Africa

Dr Chris Kotze, CEO of FNB Online, opened the 2nd day of the World Wide Web Applications Conference.

He described online banking as the baby of the channels, mobile banking an even younger. More than 150, 000 “banking” users daily. 12-15K new users every month. 35 million transactions monthly. So the Internet is moving R90 billion per month. 150,000 new products sales per annum. Almost 1 million visits per week. When Internet banking falls over, the rest of the bank cannot cope.

Number of positive drivers of online banking usage is starting to outweigh the negatives. For corporates the #1 most important feature is security, followed by availability and performance. Rural areas have more bandwidth constraints than metropolitan areas.

The Internet starting to take a bigger percentage of the channel mix. By 2025 online banking could account for 80% of transactions. Corporates already at higher level. There is expectation by 2025 about 75% of service will be available online.

The Impact on First National Bank (FNB):

  • Has to become a global 24/7/365 business
  • Very demanding self-service clients
  • Lower-cost channel options
  • Legacy systems, security and data issues
  • Fraud challenges (phishing)
  • 3rd party dependencies and joint-ventures
  • New competitors
  • “Different” workforce and competencies

Chris ended off with a quote from Charles Schwab on how the Internet has changed it’s business. And for Charles Schwab it has not changed business but enhanced it. For FNB it has changed their business fundamentally. In the Q&A a question was asked about mobile banking users. Turns out FNB has more than 500,000 mobile baking users. There’s a big overlap between them and the online banking users i.e. they tend to be the same people or as Chris Kotze said they co-exist. So there is still a long way to go in getting the unbanked into the banking system.
For more on Chris Kotze read this interview on Personal Finance website.


No Credit Card doesn't mean you can't shop online

First National Bank FNB Smart DevicesDespite the impression on most websites that you need a credit card to shop on the Web, that is not entirely the case. In this article I present some alternatives to using a credit card.

Last time round I explained how to shop online, but my assumption were based on the fact that most e-commerce web sites require a credit card. Not to worry, though: if you’re savvy with your finances you’ll have noticed there are real alternatives to this emerging in South Africa. More and more South African sites, like, are offering alternatives like direct deposits, electronic transfers, eBucks rewards points, and various other options.

The biggest and most popular online shopping destinations offer a selection of the following different payment methods:

  • Credit Card – the universal standard for online payments accepted worldwide. Since the dawn of ecommerce in the mid 1990s credit cards have ruled supreme. VISA and MasterCard have been great beneficiaries due to their worldwide recognition and trust.
  • Bank Deposits / Electronic Funds Transfers (EFT) – there is growing acceptance of this method due to the growing popularity of Internet banking in South Africa.
  • eBucks – the First National Bank-originated rewards program has picked up a lot of loyal users since its launch a few years ago and you can use it at a selection of online merchants as a method of payment. Includes the likes of CNA as rewards partners.
  • Standard Bank AutoPay – this is open to Standard Bank clients for direct payments to selected online retailers from their personal bank accounts.
  • ABSA Online Payment – a security measure which has become a popular choice among consumers as you never have to send your REAL credit card over the Internet again. This system generates a unique credit card-16 digit number which can be used instead of your own credit card number. The major benefit here is that debit card holders can also use this payment method. I’m not sure if this is still on offer because I could not find references to it on ABSA’s website at the time of posting.
  • Thirt – an escrow service which accepts payment from the buyer and passes it on to the seller only after the buyer is satisfied with the goods.
  • Debit Cards / Cheque Cards – the fastest emerging payment system, with funds loaded into the card and spent according to what is available.

One of the best payment methods available in 45 countries world wide, excluding South Africa, is the Paypal system. Paypal uses e-mail to send and receive payments electronically. The simplicity of this system, combined with a cash incentive when it was launched, caused an explosive growth in Paypal users. The majority have always been eBay users, and it did not take long before eBay decided to buy Paypal. Right now South Africans can only send money with Paypal and not receive money.

For South Africans shopping at international websites a credit card is still a must. Until there is an alternative, perhaps from Google or that allows South Africans a different way to make payments and receive payments the potential for local online retail stores will be limited.

So you really don’t have to use a credit card. There are some alternatives and they are all very secure. The number of debit cards is also growing and, with smart card technology they will offer the same kind of functionality that credit cards offer users today. In face I would recommend you get a “cheque card” that is being offered by First National Bank, Nedbank, Standard Bank and ABSA because they offer an actual VISA/Mastercard credit card number linked with your cheque account. When you use it as you would a credit card the money is deducted from your cheque account instead of the credit/loan which where you would pay interest.

Using these “cheque cards” is a major step forward in enhancing your ability to shop in a cashless environment. For me it’s allowed me to regulate my spending and also to carry less cards in my pocket. So if you have a problem keeping your credit card balances in check, excuse the pun, this pay just be the way to go.