How to bank the unbanked

5 minute read 10 May 2019
By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.

5 minute read 10 May 2019

New business models and innovative technologies are offering the banking sector in South Africa an opportunity to grow.

Roy Andersen was with EY from 1966 to 1993, starting his career as a trainee accountant and becoming a member firm partner at age 26. “EY has been a golden thread all the way through my career,” says Roy who is now a non-executive director in three listed companies in South Africa, including Sasfin Bank.

His advice to young partners? “Don't lose your connections with EY. Use that as your background information. Also use that as your backbone when it comes to ethics.”

“When I was headhunted to head up the [Johannesburg] stock exchange, it was because I was the senior partner of EY [and] because I stood for something. When I was headhunted to become the CEO of Liberty Life, one of the biggest insurance companies, it was because I had succeeded at the stock exchange, but also [because] I was a partner at EY.”

An active alumnus, Roy is still in touch with his former EY colleagues and also reaches out to EY people for professional advice. “You don't want to wake up one morning and find [that] your bank is irrelevant. So, we use EY as a source of intelligence to say: ‘These are the trends in the banking sector. Are you keeping ahead of them? Can your systems cater for them?’”

Embracing disruption as a way of growth

The untapped market for banks in South Africa is huge. “Fifty-eight percent of South Africans do not have a bank account,” he says “But most South Africans have a cell phone. So you can just see the opportunity: to suddenly bank those unbanked. That gives a tremendous opportunity.”

However, banks looking to make headway into the untapped market will also have to deal with disruptive technologies and business models. “There are three banks opening in South Africa this year. And one has no bricks and mortar at all. It is purely electronic. That's going to change the rules.”

The easiest way to deal with disruption is to embrace it. For example, “use artificial intelligence to calculate what your clients want from you. If you look at the transactions that they are actually doing at the moment, you must be able to predict what they want. Communicate that with them. But, more importantly, make it easy for them to access that particular service.”

Roy is very optimistic about the country’s future in spite of its rough recent past. The entrepreneurial spirit is on the rise and investment trends are turning to the country’s favor. Things are looking up.


With new business models and disruptive technologies, the banks in South Africa are looking toward tremendous growth.

About this article

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.