Overview from Emile Burger: Chief Operating Officer

To us, mutuality does not just mean connecting technology; mutuality is about creating the ecosystem that serves our stakeholders.

Our Technology and Operations business unit is a key component in how we meet our stakeholder mandates. The division looks after the interconnected areas of Operations, Networks, Platforms, Applications and Security. These carry sensitive payment information, and in future will carry other forms of complex information.

As an integral part of the payments system, one of the challenges we face is how do we plan and coordinate the process to address the existing issues in a system, while at the same time building for future requirements – without disrupting the services offered to customers.

To address this, we adopted a bimodal approach to our infrastructure projects. This has allowed us to manage two approaches: one focused on fixing current and legacy issues in our architecture, and the other focused on building our offerings and future proofing the business so that we can support customers going forward. We believe that in time, the balance of effort will move away from fixing towards building.

One of our strategic priorities is to enhance trust with our stakeholders. For us, trust means that our stakeholders have a belief in the reliability and availability of our systems to help them deliver to their clients. To do this they need to rely on us as an integral part of their businesses. Our primary focus is on fixing our existing system to rebuild this trust while we continue to build new offerings.

Our efforts are to address legacy issues centred around a programme we called ‘the three Rs’, namely building resilience, responsiveness and reliability into our operations. This embodies the qualities we believe must be entrenched in our operating environment. To create an environment that embodies these qualities, I need to borrow a metaphor from Chris, our CEO: “if we at BankservAfrica are the plumbing of the economy, we had to reinforce the plumbing”.

The purpose of the three Rs programme was to strengthen Operations, Networks, Platforms, Applications and Security. This had to be done while taking into account the changing payments and the competitive and economic landscape of South Africa. This enormous undertaking was conducted in stages to minimise disruption. Ultimately, we refreshed our entire ecosystem, including infrastructure, applications, databases, network and the way that it all interacts with each other. This was done without having any down time.

Data is our currency. Therefore, protecting the integrity of data is our priority.

We have created multiple failure points, introducing a level of redundancy within our systems. This has resulted in improved network speeds and connectivity between our two sites. Furthermore, we have enhanced the resilience and reliability of the system due to these changes – reducing recovery time from four hours on average to a few seconds.

I believe we now have best of breed across all possible elements of our system – a world-class platform.

We have started to move away from monitoring whether a system is available, to whether a service is available. Having a system available means that the application is working, but it does not mean that a customer can transact. To address this, we are focusing on providing an end-to-end monitoring and managing service, not application availability. We have started the journey and made good inroads, but I believe we have some ways to go to entrench this mutuality mindset.

We are striving to foster mutuality throughout our business, from the services we provide to the way we resolve problems. We are committed to ongoing and proactive engagement between ourselves and customers, and between industry participants focused on sharing best practices.

Looking forward, our focus will change from the three Rs to the three Es – excellence, execution and enablement. We will still address capacity management and continuous improvement through our three Rs. However, we now have a platform that can support bolder long-term ambitions.

For the year that lies ahead, under the three Es, our focus will be on building a bigger portfolio of capabilities to support our strategic portfolios. The payments modernisation programme, tokenisation, card not present enhanced capability, and fraud mitigation are some of the projects we are looking at as we transition from legacy issues to future proofing our business.