“I see it as Lego blocks where the bottom layer is a strong technology foundation that gives us a platform to deliver cutting-edge digital solutions to our customers.
Absa Bank Kenya is listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange and is one of the leading financial institutions in Kenya.
Established in 1916, the bank has been a major player in Kenya’s financial landscape, involved in personal and corporate banking, business, credit cards and bancassurance.
In line with the bank’s purpose of bringing possibility to life, the bank offers comprehensive financial solutions to retail, business and corporate clients, and its regional and global presence enables it to offer leading-edge financial solutions to its clients.
The bank is a leader in the credit card space.
It has also been associated with a number of market firsts, such as the launch of the first ATM, Sharia-compliant banking, and unsecured loans.
Absa Bank Kenya is part of the Absa Group, one of the continent’s largest financial services institutions with a presence in 12 African markets and a global scale with offices in London and New York. In Kenya, Absa is present in 38 counties.
It has 83 branches, 212 ATMs and a robust Internet and mobile banking platform.
Facing changing customer needs in recent years, Absa Bank sees “digital enablement” as one of the company’s key strategies.
While accelerating business innovation, Absa works closely with partners to accelerate digital transformation, deliver high-quality and convenient innovative services for employees and customers, and further enable the creation of a digital Africa.
Bank outlets reconsider their positioning as epidemics and digital technologies affect the financial industry In recent years, the epidemic and digital technologies have continuously affected traditional commercial banks.
The diversified requirements of banking users and the physical isolation caused by the COVID-19 epidemic have accelerated the digital transformation of commercial banks.
As a result, “mobile first” has become a mainstream theme in the industry.
More and more banks see “mobile money” as the essential route to digital transformation.
As consumers embrace mobile banking, digital channels are absorbing many traditional banking transactions.
As a result, the customer footprint at bank outlets begins to shrink, leading to the closure of many outlets.
However, bank outlets remain an important channel for serving customers.
According to a June 2020 McKinsey study: “The branch approach will evolve to help customers with their complex needs.”
In another Deloitte study of the outlook for banking and capital markets to 2021, “Nearly half of bank respondents said their institutions are considering real-time interactions with bank staff via smart ATMs. .”
There is no doubt that bank outlets remain indispensable.
in the digital transformation journey of banks.
However, banks are supposed to re-examine the position of offline outlets.
In the future, branches will act as face-to-face (F2F) channels and customer experience centers where customers handle complex transactions, resolve problems and receive financial advisory services.
Smart bank branch networks will be the key for banks to achieve this goal and support the digital strategies of commercial banks.
The traditional branch connection solution makes it difficult for banks to digitally upgrade.
Who is “Mr. Right” for this situation?
However, traditional bank branch network architectures are no longer sufficient to support or even make it difficult to upgrade digital branches.
First, the cost of traditional WAN-solutions for connecting branch offices is too high.
With the promotion of digitization, the demand for real-time data transmission of transactions, services and financial files in bank branches has skyrocketed, as has the demand for high-quality digital offices and video/voice within branches.
However, the cost of building MPLS links is too high.
Most banks are hesitant at such a high cost.
This becomes an obstacle for the establishment of smart branches of banks.
Traditional solutions also do not meet the requirements of banking agility and flexibility.
Previously, building, configuring and commissioning a network in a new bank branch could take weeks or even months.
Also, many services that should have been available to clients if there was a strong network cannot be provided in some areas due to a lack of professional staff.
As a result, traditional solutions become an impediment to the agility requirements of banking in the digital age.
In addition, the low efficiency of operation and maintenance of the network becomes a critical point for the digital transformation of banks.
Banks are typical of these situations: the network structure is complex and invisible, branch locations are scattered, and network diagnostics cannot be performed remotely.
As a result, when network problems arise, IT technicians must handle them.
It could take several hours or even days, which would be disastrous for the banks’ operations and lead to significant losses.
As we can see, when the continuity of banking services is threatened by a network problem, traditional solutions fail.
Since the traditional branch connection solution is obsolete in the digital age, what is the best solution for digital branch building?
SD-WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network) technology is the answer.
SD-WAN, as a next-generation technology and service, can help banks connect their branches and promote smart branch upgrades by building a powerful network based on cost effectiveness, agility, flexibility, scalability, security and compliance.
Absa Bank Kenya partners with Huawei on SD-WAN solution to build a new digital foundation for branch networks As the business continues to expand, Absa Bank Kenya actively searches for the most suitable network infrastructure.
“We strive to provide our customers with a seamless digital experience.
We want to enable them to bank and transact smoothly and seamlessly in the comfort of whatever they may be,” said Moses Okundi, CIO of Absa Bank Kenya.
To realize that, the bank needed to build a new infrastructure to improve the efficiency of various banking services, reduce operation and maintenance costs, and improve the user experience at branches.
To meet the digital transformation requirements, Huawei and Absa Bank Kenya’s technical team conducted in-depth discussions and surveys.
Based on the bank’s actual requirements and digital strategy, as well as Huawei’s strong technical reserves and building experience in enterprise networking and financial digital transformation, Huawei provided Absa Bank Kenya with a customized NCE-based SD-WAN solution.
In addition to the common capabilities of SD-WAN, this solution comes with other unique advantages including: High performance and congestion-free forwarding: 3 times higher performance in the industry, meeting SD-WAN development requirements in the coming five years; Intelligent application routing ensures user experience for key applications: application-level intelligent traffic steering + 5G plus fiber on-demand scheduling + A-FEC enable 20% video packet loss with no frame freezing or artifacts .
Network deployment at branch offices can be done in a matter of minutes.
Branch, device, application, and link status are displayed.
Capable of centralized management and simplified operation and maintenance.
Finally, Absa Bank Kenya also selected Huawei as its digital transformation partner to build a cloud-based network between its headquarters and branches.
This is a proof that Absa Bank Kenya highly recognizes Huawei’s SD-WAN solution to meet its digital innovation and service expansion requirements during its digital upgrade.
Efficient, reliable and intelligent O&M, accelerating the digital transformation of Absa Bank Kenya.
What does an SD-WAN based cloud branch network bring to Absa Kenya?
“We got to a point where we can manage traffic and distribute traffic evenly across multiple technology options or multiple connectivity options from multiple connectivity providers.
The value of this is that it gives us strong resilience to manage that connectivity,” adds Okundi.
In fact, in the future, Absa Bank Kenya’s branch network will have an intelligent traffic direction capability.
It means that the network can dynamically select MPLS links or Internet links based on the quality of the application and the quality of the MPLS link, to ensure that key services use good quality links.
In addition, based on Huawei’s proprietary algorithm support, even if the Internet link quality is not that good, the communication quality can still be guaranteed, which means that MPLS has a cost-effective alternative.
In addition, Huawei provides the iMaster NCE-Campus O&M platform for Absa Kenya, which can display key O&M quality of devices, applications, and traffic.
This platform can visualize the application traffic of all branches and thus enables the IT team to monitor dynamic data and adjust the bandwidth of each branch in a timely manner.
This provides efficient and intelligent operations, as Okundi explains: “For my technology team, we now have a very good level of visibility into usage from the connectivity partners we’ve contracted with.
We can see where the usage is and how the traffic is distributes And in the worst cases where manual intervention is required, our team can identify the challenges, making their intervention very precise and efficient.” These are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits provided by SD-WAN.
Absa Bank Kenya’s cloud-based intelligent branch network will serve as a critical foundation for the financial giant’s digital transformation.
As Okundi puts it: “I look at it like Lego blocks where the bottom layer is a strong technology foundation that gives us a platform to really deliver cutting-edge digital solutions to our customers.
And right at the bottom layer is strong connectivity.”
In the future, this powerful branch network will further promote Absa Bank’s smart upgrading and eventually help them evolve into smart customer experience centers.This digital foundation will continue to support Absa Bank Kenya’s business expansion and innovation to deliver the best and more advanced financial services to Kenyan customers and businesses.