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Exploring the role of digital with Nedbank’s Dhiren Balwanth

MAIN IMAGE: Dhiren Balwanth, Head of Digital Sales and Service at Nedbank

Staff writer

Since Covid, digital services in South Africa have skyrocketed. Dhiren Balwanth, Head of Digital Sales and Service at Nedbank, explains how this has affected the property market.

Digital sounds so vast; what are you doing? And a follow-up: what makes you passionate about digital?

Digital’s scope is vast, and with banking specifically, it allows us to extend our reach beyond the physical, traditional banking model. As the Head of Digital Home Loans, I am responsible for the digital offering on acquiring and servicing a home loan.

On the acquisition side, the Home Buying Toolkit offers a complete Home Buying Journey, from obtaining pre-approval to searching for a home, obtaining insights into that home and finally submitting an application to finance that home. What makes this a fantastic process is that it can be done on any smart mobile phone, tablet or computer, from the comfort of your home or office, or even whilst sitting at a seaside café, enjoying the waves crashing on the beach.

With servicing, I enable clients to manage their accounts on the Nedbank MoneyApp or Online Banking. The service options available extend from downloading statements, documents and letters to viewing available balances, property details and recent transactions.

Adopting a Digital strategy in banking is akin to creating the first home computer – it’s done to make people’s lives easier. This is what drives my passion for digital banking – to make banking simpler, convenient, and easy for our clients.

Do you think we are behind or ahead of the digital curve in SA? Why?

South Africa has a rapidly growing digital landscape, accelerated by the global pandemic of 2020. This country saw rapid digital growth through online shopping portals, from everyday items like groceries to larger items like houses and cars.

Retail giants such as Checkers, Woolworths, and Pick n Pay created online shopping portals with same-day delivery that have revolutionised the consumer buying process, which has aided the rapid growth and acceptance of digital by our people.  

  • Likewise, Nedbank has adopted a Digital-first mindset focusing on making banking omnipresent through the MoneyApp and Online Banking, backed by the human touch through our extensive branch network and the contact centre.
  • This speaks to one of our taglines: “Digital when you want it, Human when you need it.”

Where do you see the future of digital going – internationally and specifically in SA?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the future of Digital. We have seen AI in use with the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, and whilst not widely used in South Africa currently (about 38% of the population use it), the existence of such a generative AI tool is a step closer towards creating human-level thinking software for use in business and everyday use.

  • AI has far-reaching benefits for business in South Africa, especially in banking. We live in a world of immediacy where time matters to consumers. In today’s competitive market, consumers have digital access to all banks and are thus presented with the same or similar products. This impacts brand loyalty, and banks must look at innovative methods of providing speedy service to clients. Clients want their bank to provide efficient, accurate and speedy service, which is difficult to achieve through manual human intervention alone. AI is the tool that helps augment that human-led process and will ultimately change the face of banking.

How can digital benefit home buyers?

The home-buying process is somewhat daunting, especially for first-time homeowners. From looking for a property to seeking finance, the process can be more stressful than watching the Springboks navigate their way through the World Cup.

Digital places the power back in the hands of the home buyer. Potential buyers no longer have to pore through newspapers and property magazines to find a home. With a simple Google search, buyers have many property portals that provide detailed pictures, 360° views and a comprehensive property overview.

  • From a home loan side, Digital places the power in the hands of the buyer. A detailed Home Buying Journey on the Nedbank website provides valuable information on the various home-buying stages. From the initial stage, when one thinks about buying to understanding the costs associated, Nedbank uses its Digital presence to educate the home buyer on what to expect and what to plan for.
  • With the online application process, the buyer is immediately offered an offer through our Instant Bond Indicator, which essentially pre-qualifies clients for a Home Loan. The buyer also controls the application process by engaging directly with the bank rather than via a third party.

At Nedbank, we acknowledge the effort the buyer takes by going the Digital route and reward our clients by offering them 1% cash back (up to R20k) on their loan amount. The lower cost of processing Digital applications enables the bank to give back to the home buyer. So, apart from the convenience and ease that Digital affords the home buyer, the lower acquisition cost allows the bank to offer exclusive benefits to consumers who prefer the Digital option.  

How did you get into the digital space? Tell us a bit about your work history and current position.

My career at Nedbank started in March 2007 when I joined the Home Loans Administration team, a position that allowed me to learn the ropes of banking and Home Loans quickly.

Fast forward to 2012, the year of Digital, where I was part of the project team responsible for creating the Digital Home Loans channel, which I am grateful to be the Head of today. The years transitioning to my current role were spent in charge of the operations team that processed Digital Home Loan applications. My all-round experience in home loans has given me great insight into the entire Home Loan journey that today allows me to create quick, easy-to-use Digital solutions for our clients.

What colour socks are you wearing right now?

Black with orange, green and pink dots.

If you’re not working, where would we find you? Also, tell us about who Dhiren Balwanth is. I am husband to a wonderful wife, father to an intelligent, loving daughter and a proud Nedbanker. My job keeps me busy most of my time, but when I am not working, I spend that time with my family, tending to the house and yard or in the kitchen cooking or baking. Food is one of my great passions, and I enjoy experimenting with different flavours and cuisines. Weekends are for sports, and if I am not watching TV, I am on the cricket field, either coaching my daughter (the next Protea batting sensation) or playing club cricket.  

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