By Mc Donald Chapalapata, a Contributor

Buitelaar making the presentation at the Bankers Conference

TNM Chief Executive Officer Michiel Buitelaar has challenged banks that they may have to do away with brick and mortar to serve their customers in future because of digital transformation.

Presenting a paper on ‘Digital Transformation in consumer industries’ at the 5th Bankers Conference 2020 on Thursday in Blantyre, Buitelaar gave an example of a bank called Knab in his home country Netherlands which has no branches and buildings but offers superb services to its customers through digital means.

“Software is eating the world in all sorts. I used to work for an old-style financial institution in my home country. It created a new bank called Knab, it has no branches or buildings but it gives excellent service to its customers. With the digital transformation, this can also happen here in Malawi, I am not saying it will happen now but there will be a time that this will happen,” said Buitelaar.

He also gave another example of an all-digital insurance company called Lemonade that is making great strides in the United States of America.

Buitelaar also said service companies will be able to offer personalized offers to customers through digital means and appealed to Malawian service providers to embrace this.

Buitelaar listens to a question during the presentation

Buitelaar said some cynics may say that Malawi cannot achieve digital transformation because of low broadband penetration, low Internet penetration, low electricity penetration, low income and low digital literacy.

“But Malawians are not so different, they are embracing the internet. There are opportunities for Malawi in that there is limited legacy and these are early days with a young population that possess vast skills which may have big impact on sectors of the economy,” said Buitelaar.

Opening the conference, Guest of Honour who is also Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) Governor Dr Wilson Banda bemoaned the effects of Covid-19 pandemic and thanked banks for standing with RBM to provide relief to customers and businesses during the difficult time.

“The banking sector is pivotal in driving economic recovery and securing future stability by providing finance. However, is our service delivery amidst these conditions supportive to this role, more especially to the segment driving the economy-The SMEs? What about the common man at the bottom. Can we do it any differently?”

“These and many more questions ought not be avoided, but addressed to inform the future of the banking and the economy of Malawi. Covid-19 has redefined the environment, leaving limited room for conventional business models.  Therefore, the path we take, shall inform the growth trajectory and adaptability of our economy to future shocks which are certain to come; and that future is now,” said Banda.

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