BNC#6: Gerrie Fourie – Entrepreneurial masterclass from SA’s most successful CEO

In his keynote address at BNC#6 in Hermanus, Capitec CEO Gerrie Fourie detailed the bank’s storied journey, emphasising early differentiation, client-centric culture, and digital innovation. Despite COVID challenges, they adapted, focusing on digital growth and expanding into emerging markets like townships. Their strategy includes diversifying into insurance and acquiring Mercantile, aiming to unlock the potential of small businesses. With a vision for international expansion and a digital ecosystem, Capitec remains committed to simplicity, transparency, and empowering clients.

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Edited transcript of Capitec CEO Gerrie Fourie’s keynote address at BNC#6 in Hermanus ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

00:07 Alec phoned me about three, four weeks ago and said, what are you gonna talk about? I said, I actually haven’t thought about it. Then I said, I’ll talk about the Capitec journey in a changing environment. I’ll share how it started, what we did, and key moments that changed the company.

00:36 I think I’ll share this story with you because we don’t share these stories often. As a CEO for ten years, it’s my first time publicly discussing it. My passion has always been entrepreneurship. When Michiel [Le Roux] asked me to join, there was very little hesitancy to join. Before I joined Capitec I had spent a lot of time in the liquor industry, understanding the South African client base.

01:25 Normally when you start a business, you just want to jump in. We took nine months to write a detailed business plan. 60-70% of South Africans were unbanked, banking was expensive and complex. Our fundamentals were affordability, accessibility, personal service, and simplicity. Today, those fundamentals still guide our decisions.

02:23 Our business plan predicted 2 million clients, but we have 22 million now. Our product ensures everyone gets the same offer, with no differentiation. Positioning focused on simplicity and transparency. We avoided asterisks in our ads. We aimed to dominate the areas we entered. We focus on market share before launching new products.

03:47 We ensured our people were the best, streamlined services, and maintained consistent pricing. Every screen and training model was scrutinised for consistency. By 2013-2014, people recognised Capitec. With 5 million clients then, trust was our biggest challenge.

08:31 In 2014, we defined our culture emphasising the client, our people, and delivering on client needs. We introduced the CEO principle, emphasising client focus, energy, and ownership at all levels. In 2014, we also went digital. Our app now has 15 million users and handles 1.3 trillion transactions yearly.

11:52 We still value branches for personal interaction and sales opportunities. Our consultants primarily focus on selling products. We encourage digital adoption through self-help devices in branches.

13:44 In 2019, we realized the need to move faster. We shifted our IT division to platform-based systems. We became an AWS Salesforce SAP Microsoft company. This allowed us to meet changing demands more effectively.

15:36 During COVID, we seized the opportunity to grow digitally when others were downsizing. We launched several value-added services like airtime, electricity, cash send, vouchers, and Capitec Pay, boosting our bottom line by a billion Rand.

20:39 We acquired Mercantile in 2019, simplifying business banking with one product, one pricing model. We’re focusing on the emerging market, aiming to unlock its potential by transitioning people from cash to digital payments.

25:30 Unlocking the potential in the emerging market is our focus. It’s challenging but we’ve done it in retail and believe we can in business banking too. Our recent acquisition of an online lending business and expansion into international markets signal our commitment to growth.

26:00 Thank you very much.

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*The above transcript has been condensed and paraphrased for brevity and clarity, and may not capture the full context or nuances of the original speech delivered by Gerrie Fourie at the Biznews conference, BNC#6.