How FNB achieved growth in a weak economy

by Nigel Hollis | July 08, 2019

In our report, Mastering Momentum we highlighted the need for brands to grow market share by investing across three stages of the customer lifecycle: experience, exposure and activation. Brands that over-achieved at each of these three stages grew by an average of 46 percent across a three-year time frame.

In this article we focus in on one of those brands to illustrate how it managed to grow market share even in a weak economy. 2018 saw South Africa flirting with its first recession in over a decade, however, First National Bank, South Africa’s oldest bank, managed to continue its growth momentum. In 2018 FNB ranked second to Standard Bank in the BrandZ South African Top 30 Most Valuable Brands with a brand value of $3,675 million.

Experience

In Mastering Momentum, we identified that high customer satisfaction ensures lower levels of defection and delivering a great customer experience has been central to FNB’s growth strategy.

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The origins of FNB’s success go back over a decade to its commitment to invest in digital services designed to make customers lives better (while allowing the bank to realize more value from its customer base). This commitment is exemplified by the FNB mobile app. Far from limiting the scope of the app to just financial transactions FNB has sought to make it an integral part of customers lives, allowing them to list and sell a home, renew their insurance policies and even locate a local plumber. For big brands like FNB, current, satisfied customers offer significant opportunity for growth and in 2018, FNB’s results were in part driven by diverse products from insurance and wealth management to mortgages and credit-card offerings.

Exposure

Of course, to grow share a brand must reach out to new category entrants or encourage people to switch from competitors. While people may not immediately respond to a brand’s marketing activities, establishing motivating feelings, ideas and associations can prime people to choose the advertised brand when the time comes. Rather than talk about products and services FNB has sought to amplify its focus on making customers lives better with campaigns like “How can we help you?” which speaks to the power of help and helping people to help themselves.

Activation

To ensure that a brand takes advantage of increased predisposition it must make it as easy as possible for people to act on their preference. That means making sure the brand is as widely available as possible and easy to do business with once someone has made their choice. FNB has made opening a new account as easy as possible by making the process paperless and even offering the opportunity to “Switch With a Selfie”. As a result, despite a lack of customers entering the banking sector and the difficulty of getting existing banking customers to switch, in 2018 FNB in South Africa reported a 4 percent increase in its customer base to 8.2 million.

Across the three years covered by the Mastering Momentum report FNB has managed to grow, out-performing other brands across the three stages of the customer lifecycle. As a result, FNB has successfully differentiating itself from its competition and strengthened both market share and brand equity. But FNB belongs to a very exclusive set of brands that managed to overperform across all three stages, why do you think so many brands fail to achieve the same balance and grow?

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  1. Terry Helms, July 31, 2019
    I suspect there are many reasons why "so many brands fail to achieve the same balance and grow" but I'll pick one; people power. Behind every wonderful organizational success highlighted in your Mastering Momentum report and in your FNB success story, there is an ecosystem, an individual or individuals, team or teams who hire well, prioritize well, invest in short- and long-term, etc. And props to them for doing the hard work and to you for lifting them up.

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