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FNB takes top spot, while banking industry reclaims position as SA’s most loved industry

The South African banking sector, a pivotal component of the national economy, has undergone a significant transformation in public perception. Recent data reveals intriguing insights into the industry’s standing, particularly in terms of customer sentiment and operational efficacy.

South African cross-industry view: Public Net Sentiment

Industry Net Sentient Chart- SA Banking Index

DataEQ’s eighth annual South African Banking Sentiment Index, a comprehensive analysis of over 4.3 million social media posts between 1 September 2022 and 31 August 2023, has revealed a striking leap in the banking industry’s Net Sentiment. The data, encompassing posts related to African Bank, Absa, Capitec, Discovery Bank, FNB, Nedbank, Standard Bank, and TymeBank, shows a rise in Net Sentiment from 9.4% in 2022 to an impressive 23.5% this year.

Sarah Lamb, speaks to eNCA about findings from the 2023 SA Banking Sentiment Index

Banking industry Net Sentiment across the globe

Banking Net Sentiment globally

The South African banking industry outperformed international counterparts

Recording an overall Net Sentiment of 23.5%, the SA banking industry showcased the highest compliment-to-complaint ratio among the four regions analysed by DataEQ. The positive Net Sentiment results for the South African and Kenyan banking industries contrasted sharply with the results seen in the UK – where negative mentions comprised nearly half of all online conversations, resulting in an overall Net Sentiment of -25.6%.

Overall public Net Sentiment performance

Overall Net Sentiment

FNB retains the number one spot

FNB held onto its leading Net Sentiment position from the previous year’s index to lead the pack by just under 2 percentage points. FNB achieved the highest Net Sentiment score in customer service and also surpassed industry benchmarks on the topic of staff competency, with more than one-third of its positive feedback coming from compliments towards staff at their branches. Customers also appreciated FNB’s approach to contactless billing and payment services including the bank’s eWallet service, tap-to-pay feature, and ability to create virtual cards for secure transactions. This positivity extended to the awards season, where FNB was recognised by Global Finance as both South Africa and Africa’s best digital bank in 2023.

Discovery Bank is the biggest mover in 2023’s ranking

Positioned second, Discovery Bank’s 32 percentage point increase this year came from well-executed strategic promotional efforts. Positivity towards the brand was largely driven by campaigns that promoted the bank’s app and rewards, offering features like Vitality Travel for discounted flights, real-time payment system, and integration with virtual card systems like Samsung Pay and Apple Pay.

Absa drops to third place despite an 11.1 percentage point increase

Ranking third, Absa’s success in Net Sentiment is largely attributed to its campaigns such as #WeDoMoreWednesdays and #FreeAbsaRewards. These initiatives have effectively highlighted the bank’s affordability and rewards scheme, bolstering its reputational sentiment.

Campaigns raise Net Sentiment, but mask potential customer grievances

Public Net Sentiment including and excluding campaigns

Banking Campaign Performance

The banking industry’s effective use of campaigns significantly influenced Net Sentiment, as many campaigns used savvy strategies to encourage or elicit positive feedback from consumers around certain products and services. This is evidenced by the comparative 33 percentage point decline in Net Sentiment when campaign-related mentions were excluded from the analysis.

“It’s truly encouraging to see how the banking industry has continued to record a positive Net Sentiment for the second year in a row, and even more impressive that this figure grew by 2.5x since last year’s index,” remarks Sarah Lamb, Banking Lead at DataEQ.

“This growth reflects a significant shift towards content and campaigns that genuinely resonate with consumers and it’s clear that banks are being more favourably received. However, it’s important not to overlook the fact that successful campaigns can sometimes mask underlying operational challenges. The industry at large faces ongoing challenges in areas such as transaction delays, platform accessibility, and customer service responsiveness specifically at overburdened call centres. With the increasing competition from new industry players, banks must not only maintain their positive image but also strive for continual operational improvements to ensure a holistic, customer-centric banking experience.”