By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK With the credit card operations of First National Bank Namibia migrating Namibia from South Africa, Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila hopes other operations of the bank will become localised too. The move will ease the woes of its 7000 credit card holders, who have all the time had to call South Africa to follow up on their transactions. Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who presided over the launch, said situations where financial institutions rely on head offices abroad for operational and management decisions left Namibian clients grappling with high costs and frustrations arising from long waits. Due to the fact that decision-making in such cases was centralised, this not only precluded personalised services for a diversified clientele of institutions but also a lack of familiarity with the individual needs and circumstances of customers. “In today’s age, where customer satisfaction is the main determinant for success, understanding the client’s needs and striving to meet such needs is an imperative,” she added. With the localisation of credit card operations, the minister urged the bank to ensure that it improves its services in a way that they become cost effective. The public has expressed concern over high bank charges which some say have resulted in a high number of the population being unbanked. Statistics of Finscope indicate that although 53 percent of the Namibian population is included in some form of banking services, 45.2 percent are excluded. Since the bank was locali-sing its services, it should also strive to increase the accessibility to financial services since low interest and inflation rates should be used to streamline the costs of financial services and align them with those in the region. The bank last year introduced a low-cost banking product called Card Wise, in order to reach the unbanked population. Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said that the bank could build on such initiatives to reach a greater number of clients. According to the bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Leonard Haynes, the migration of operations is important for the bank to comply with the country’s laws. The fact that the bank is 40 percent Namibian-owned, said Haynes, made the bank want to operate as an independent financial services group. This shareholding is poised to grow to 45 percent through the bank’s Black Economic Empowerment transaction. The bank has established a fully-fledged Credit Card Division dealing exclusively with credit cards, from processing of new applications, issuing of the cards and other card-related issues. Along with the establishment of the division, the bank has also introduced a new range of Namibian credit cards called Turquoise, Silver, Gold and Platinum as well as a petrol card. Other products come with comprehensive global travel insurance, lost card protection on non-pin-related fraud, visa global customer assistance services, InContact, transaction notifications and e-mailed statements.
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