The conference room at Johannesburg’s Sandton Convention Centre crackled with energy as over 300 exceptional leaders from Absa Group’s 12 operating countries gathered. This was no ordinary Senior Leadership Group (SLG) meeting; these leaders had earned their place through unanimous selection by their peers, representing a unique assembly of talent and vision.
Dubbed ‘Ijayo,’ a Kiswahili word symbolising the future, this gathering was dedicated to forging Absa’s new brand purpose—a daring declaration crafted to steer the bank’s strategic trajectory in the years to come.
In an atmosphere thick with anticipation, the attendees took their seats, waiting for that pivotal moment when the purpose would be unveiled. With palpable excitement and conviction, Group Chief Executive, Arrie Rautenbach, took the stage, uttering the words everyone yearned to hear: ‘Empowering Africa’s tomorrow, together… one story at a time.’
The room erupted in thunderous applause, instantly echoing the resonance of the newfound purpose.
It was a beacon of hope for a continent desperate for transformative change.
The statement signifies a bold departure from traditional banking norms and embraces a progressive, exciting and community-centric approach. At its core lies a commitment to unlocking the immense potential that Africa holds. Gone are the days of viewing Africa through a narrow lens of limitations; this bank recognises the rich tapestry of stories, aspirations and untapped opportunities that lie within its diverse communities. By shifting the focus from banking transactions to human narratives, Absa is now attempting to rewrite the rules and reshape the perception of what a bank can truly achieve.
“Empowering Africa’s tomorrow, together…one story at a time” might sound like a lofty ideal, but it serves as a rallying cry for change in an industry often criticised for its rigidity and conservatism.
While some may raise their eyebrows at this departure from the tried and tested, Absa’s counter-intuitive approach opens doors to new possibilities. It challenges the notion that banks should solely focus on financial transactions, highlighting the importance of human connection and empowerment. By embracing unconventional practices, Absa is signalling to the financial world that it’s time to think outside the box.
In Ghana, Absa’s constant culture of reinvention, fortified by a century-old heritage, has set it apart in impacting and supporting real sector growth. Recently, Absa unveiled an unprecedented initiative to empower SMEs—offering loans up to GH¢1m at a remarkably low rate of 10 percent p.a., without collateral. In a country where borrowing rates have soared above 30 percent, this ground-breaking endeavour propels businesses to new heights, igniting their potential.
In shifting its purpose from “bringing possibilities to life” to “empowering Africa’s tomorrow together,” Absa is making a bold prediction that it will stick with Africa for the foreseeable future, and is confident in the potential, growth and transformation of its peoples and resources to make the world a better place.
It is a refreshing take on what a bank must truly stand for, beyond its core sphere of influence. It also comes at a time where the banking sector, at least in Ghana, is facing a crisis of legitimacy following economic and performance challenges and customers’ waning confidence in the sector’s ability to support real growth and enhance wealth creation.
“One of the beautiful things about having a purpose is that it actually keeps you very focused and delivers direction. In empowering our customers and stakeholders, we are giving them a new lease of life to empower their families, households, and build businesses that will stand the test of time and support real sector growth,” said Managing Director, Abena Osei-Poku.
Absa has always danced to its own rhythm in terms of strategy, steadfastly meeting the bespoke needs of customers and clients, unfazed by external pressures. By prioritising the voices of its employees in crafting this new purpose statement, Absa is once again showing the world a new way to lead.