Internet/online banking; marketing/branding initiative; customer relations; IT application in corporations
In 2001, overall Internet access in South Africa was around two million and Absa, one of the major banking groups in South Africa, had an Internet banking client base of 153 000. In a move aimed at doubling this client base and changing the bank’s image from one of e-laggard to e-leader, the group decided, in conjunction with UK IT company, Affinity, to offer free Internet access to anyone in South Africa. Despite widely expressed scepticism about the viability of the project, the uptake was enormous. The projected month-one target of 10 000 registrations was reached on the first day. In 2002, however, Absa was forced to withdraw the offer of free Internet access for all. The withdrawal of Affinity from the deal, which meant that Absa would now have to incur the costs of the project, and the liquidation of an Absa subsidiary, which put some financial strain on the group, meant that the project was no longer viable. Nevertheless, in terms of creating brand awareness and positioning Absa as a progressive bank, it has been a tremendously successful project. Santie Botha, Absa’s group executive director, reflected on the good, the bad and the ugly of the project.