In the financial services sector, there are likely few titles more important now than Chief Digital Officer. The industry is transforming at a rapid pace, driven by technological change, the market entry of new players such as fintechs and challenger banks, and the increased focus on customer-driven and personalised services.
For any bank, then, an effective Chief Digital Officer is a prerequisite for success. Zambia National Bank’s (Zanaco) Wane Ng'ambi is one such CDO. Ng'ambi is a seasoned telecommunications and financial services executive with extensive skill sets in sales & distribution, financial services, project management, IT and telecommunications, and FMCG experience spanning several African markets.
The latter is particularly important - unlike many of his peers, Ng’ambi is a CDO who distinctly understands the relationship between finance and telecommunications. This has stood him well at Zanaco, where he was brought into the business to drive digital change.
"I love a challenge," he explains, when asked what drew him to his current role. "I'm not a traditional banker. To me, one of the slowest-changing industries has been banking and financial services. With Zanaco, the whole agenda of taking a very mature, traditional industry and moulding it into a very tech-savvy future-focused one is a fantastic opportunity.
"There's a big drive across Africa that is pivoting mobile telecommunication companies from predominantly providing voice and data services to providing financial services by using the existing technology infrastructure," he adds. "Mobile money is a big phenomena in regions like Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Zambia is the latest country to embark on this journey."
According to Ng’ambi, this transition is a move that banks absolutely need to make. Telecommunications, after all, is embedded in the lives of all consumers and therefore driving change in the sector - a subject close to Ng’ambi’s heart. Banks, he says, should ask themselves ‘how do we migrate from the traditional branch servicing of customers and into the digital age?’. He also understands well that as the next generation of consumers continue to mobile uptake, any change businesses make is essential in order to stay relevant in the market.
Since joining, Ng’ambi has led this transformation at Zanaco, achieving an astonishing 115% growth across digital channels over the last 18 months. "Technology and culture,” he says. “Naturally these factors both intertwine. While automation drives efficiency, which achieves our digital strategy, digital transformation impacts the lives of stakeholders within the branches on a day-to-day basis, with a shift of customers moving from branch to digital marking a negative trajectory.
“However, we are close to gaining 40,000 customers every month who did not have access to financial services previously. We're somewhere in the space of maybe 200-300% new-to-bank acquisition growth between 2018 and 2019. That's a very, very strong growth for a traditional bank."
Being customer-centric is, naturally, an important facet of Ng’ambi’s role. But, as a CDO, one cannot overlook the importance of technology and how he and his contemporaries use that technology to achieve overarching business goals. Looking ahead, he notes: "We're looking to build a whole ecosystem by adding everyone into one interoperable environment where everyone can play and trade with everyone.
“From a traditional banking perspective, I think this is relatively strong because all banks are already playing with everybody, but from a mobile perspective, mobile acquirers, mobile issuers, are not doing very well, so this is an area where we're trying to create an environment that allows everyone to play with everyone,” he says. “Mobile is continuing its strong growth and we're trying to now bridge that gap with banking, so that for us is one key area that we're going to keep focusing on."