Creating Africa’s First Digital Native Bank. A webinar with ACBM, DotModus, DigiCloud Africa and Google

Recently, DigiCloud Africa in conjunction with ACBM, Google and DotModus, held a webinar on how to build a digital native business in Africa. If you weren’t able to attend (or forgot about it - we won’t judge), this post will give you a recap.

3 months ago   •   4 min read

By Angelique Tzanakakis

Why a digital native business?

Greg MacLennan, DigiCloud’s CEO, opened with the idea that success comes to those who don’t rely on the normal way of doing things. To remain successful, businesses are forced to adapt to the times. This is no secret - take a look at Netflix who went from renting physical DVDs to becoming the largest subscription service provider. I mention Netflix because it’s one of the most recognisable digital native businesses.

MacLennan outlines three main points. Firstly, digital native businesses can be built quickly and cheaply. The technology is already there - you don’t need to invest time and money into building the tools available to augment every aspect of your business. Secondly, there are many opportunities in Africa for digital native businesses. And, finally, that digital native businesses need to partner with other companies (like DotModus) to enable their success.

After this, MacLennan began to give context about why we were there. He says what we all think - we, as customers, expect an online experience that is seamless and faster than doing things normally. Customers expect things to be much easier and digital natives should give this to you. We expect more from every vendor we interact with.

What’s important to remember is that digital natives are more than a social media account or website and more than an app. You need to interact and engage with customers and data in a way that wasn’t available before.

MacLennan describes something we can all relate to - how absolutely frustrating it is to deal with traditional banks. Everything from opening accounts to getting a home loan involves way too many people and way too much admin. He stresses that after so many years of being a customer, how do they not know who you are. Banks have your data and they are not actively using it to make your life easier.

MacLennan states that if an organisation can build a bank in 18 months, there are countless opportunities for anyone in any industry in Africa. It truly is an opportunity for anyone in any industry because data opens a world of possibilities for any business.  With the cloud, you no longer need a physical office building to bring people together and start a business.

ACBM’s success

Simon Tobelem, ACBM’s Group CEO, describes ACBM as one of Africa’s first digital native banks without traditional branches. Instead, they have offices where they manage their operations online and remotely.

Interestingly, Tobelem says that while traditional banks don’t have a choice to take their physical businesses online, their legacy infrastructure hinders scalability and flexibility. This is not the case with ACBM. He describes how they are always evolving and ensuring the technology that they are using is the best that it can be. Being a digital native business, ACMB can easily replace one piece of technology when something new and better comes along.

Native digital businesses don’t reinvent the wheel - they use existing technologies and connect them using APIs which makes building the platform quick because everything already exists. Tobelem makes it clear that they achieved their success by partnering with DigiCloud and DotModus.

Partnering with DotModus

Look, we might be a little biased but if Simon and Greg didn’t inspire you already, Tom Fowler, DotModus’ CEO, would have. Echoing what was said before, Fowler says businesses need to adopt a new way of doing business. Specifically:

  • Adopt Software as a Service so you can focus on core business operations by leveraging existing tools like Google Workspace.
  • Focus heavily on automation and ensure you automate everything you can to reduce the size of your teams and to allow you to focus on your customer.
  • Adopt engineering and don’t be scared of it, rather, embrace innovation and experimentation to see what can take your business to new levels.

Fowler advises that businesses create a culture of change but let the experts do the heavy lifting. He says don’t emulate the giants like Google, rather you should leverage the services they offer. Adopting collaboration tools and remote work have forced everyone to find new ways to work with their teams regardless of location.

According to Fowler, local geography doesn’t matter anymore - what’s important is timezone orientation. Working with customers in Africa and Europe is an incredible opportunity for DotModus because of the close time zones.

There is a pitfall about being a digital native business - operating globally and in the cloud naturally makes digital businesses enticing targets for hackers.  A business that can be attacked by anyone in the world  needs to ensure that  they have a cloud partner that can provide the safety and security that your data needs, explains Fowler. With an experienced and trusted partner like DotModus, he reiterates that you can focus on your business and your presence in the market rather than security issues.

The takeaway

If there’s one major piece of information that could be gleaned from the webinar is that being a digital native business is not about being online, it’s about how you adopt technology and who you partner with. Businesses need to embrace technology and move with the times otherwise, the only service you can offer is the one you’ve always offered.

If ACBM can successfully build a banking platform in 18 months, the opportunities for other businesses in Africa are endless. For more information about how your business can partner with DotModus, you can contact us here. You can check out this blog post to find out what a digital native business is.

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