When Barclays Bank Botswana was officially renamed Absa Bank Botswana in February 2020, it marked the start of a new era for banking in the country. But for newly appointed Managing Director Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane, it had a more personal resonance.
“For me, it was an opportunity to use or set myself as an example to the young Motswana women in Botswana, that it is possible to set your mind to something and achieve it,” she tells The CEO Magazine.
“As one of the few females that is leading a listed entity, even in the banking industry, it was an opportunity really to motivate, influence and impact in a positive way every Motswana girl child out there, to show them that it is possible to do it.”
The rebranding of its Botswana operation was part of Barclays’ 2018 decision to reposition its operations in 12 African countries under the Absa Group. Ultimately, it proved to be the banking giant’s African exit strategy, with its departure from the continent after 90 years sealed with the 2022 sale of its remaining Absa shares.
Pheko-Moshagane, who was COO at the time of the first announcement, was instrumental in this transition.
“My journey there was mainly to turn our operations around, but equally, start to put in place the building blocks for transitioning from Barclays to Absa,” she recalls.
Midway through that process, in April 2019, she was appointed to lead the bank as its Managing Director. In many ways, it was a natural progression for her, since she had been with the bank since 2010 in a variety of roles, including CIO, with broad oversight of its operations.
“I believe it was also an opportunity for me to give back to the country that has invested in me and to make a positive contribution to the Botswana economy as one of the key players that can facilitate the economic growth,” she reflects.
“From the customer lens, it was really about embedding the brand in the heart and mind, but equally, driving the use of digital platforms.”
From the perspective of Absa’s customers, the transition set the scene for investment in its digital platforms to drive it forward on the technology front. The intensified focus came at just the right time.
With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent just a month after the rebrand’s completion, Pheko-Moshagane seized the opportunity to drive digital utilization of the platforms it had invested in.
“From the customer lens, it was really about embedding the brand in the heart and mind, but equally, driving the use of digital platforms,” she explains.
Now, Pheko-Moshagane’s eyes are firmly on the future.
“As a group, we have recently collectively reviewed our vision. And in reviewing our vision we had to take stock, reflect on where we are as an organization, where the world is going and what our customers are demanding of us,” she acknowledges.
Other topics that were debated were the regulatory landscape, the changing face of the competition and how to remain relevant amid a fast-evolving landscape.
“We came up with a new purpose, which is empowering Africa’s tomorrow together, one story at a time,” she reveals.
“I could relate to that purpose on a personal level and it reaffirmed my commitment to Absa, because when your personal purpose aligns to your organization, it gives you the inspiration to wake up every day and do what you do at your best level.”
“We came up with a new purpose, which is empowering Africa’s tomorrow together, one story at a time.”
Pheko-Moshagane is determined to see Absa deliver on this purpose, making a meaningful impact on the country and that of Africa as a whole. Part of this is a commitment to governmental efforts in diversifying Botswana’s economy.
Digitalization plays a critical role in these plans. Absa has already done much on this front, including the launch of Mobi Tap earlier this year.
The payment solution enables customers to use smartphones instead of traditional point-of-sale devices when processing contactless card transactions. It is also the first of its kind in Botswana, so encouraging its uptake is key.
“When I look at the adoption of the digital platform in Botswana specifically, there’s still more to do,” Pheko-Moshagane stresses.
“We still need to get to a point where we educate our customers and we carry them with us, and they can fully adopt our digital platforms and reduce our footfall in branches.”
Making an impact in the communities in which it operates is another significant undertaking for Absa. Recent initiatives include the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the government to create platforms that empower and develop entrepreneurs.
It also launched a dedicated account for female entrepreneurs, with further support offered in the form of workshops.
“When your personal purpose aligns to your organization, it gives you the inspiration to wake up every day and do what you do at your best level.”
With Africa, including Botswana, still establishing the foundation of ESG, according to Pheko-Moshagane, it’s another area where she hopes to make an impact. Social issues such as gender-based violence are also in her sights.
“I would want us to be deliberate and make a contribution and improve in terms of how we support our government’s efforts in those communities, addressing social issues and making a positive mark,” she affirms.
These are major undertakings, but Pheko-Moshagane is confident that Absa Bank Botswana is well positioned with the solid balance sheet required to take on such issues while supporting the country’s growth.
She also knows that the foundation of excellent customer service lies in a best-in-class employee experience, acknowledging that it is crucial to instill a strong sense of culture among its people so it can attract the best in the country.
This strong focus on culture not only encourages diversity, equity and inclusion within the organization, it also keeps employees motivated to come to work every day.
“Over time, my experience has reaffirmed that as a leader, you need to take care of people,” she says. “If you take care of them, then they will take care of business.”