Head of eFX Sales SA at Absa CIB
Most aspects of modern life are managed via smartphone. Now, with a new Absa Access Mobile app, businesses can manage their foreign exchange (FX) risk on the go, too.
We’ve never been more mobile, or more connected. According to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the country’s smartphone penetration reached 91.2% in 2019. The country’s 53.4 million smartphone subscriptions were just shy of the total population of 58.8 million – meaning that, according to ICASA’s 2020 The State of the ICT Sector Report in South Africa, nearly every South African now has (or has access to) an internet-enabled smartphone.
The implications for business are profound. “We’re all spending more time on our smartphones,” says Aphile Molefe, Head of eFX Sales SA at Absa CIB. “It’s where we’re doing our work and how we’re getting our news. Think about it: the only thing you carry with you wherever you go is your smartphone.”
Staying ahead of that curve, Absa CIB has launched an FX capability in its new Absa Access Mobile app. In a first for South Africa, the capability enables business users to manage their FX risk through FX orders – directly from their smartphone.
Live FX management, on the go
“This takes corporate banking to the next level,” says Molefe. “Historically, corporates have been underserved from a digital perspective when it comes to their banking needs. People tended to assume that because businesses were run from offices, there would be teams of people sitting at desks filling in forms all day long – so there was no need to worry about providing them with digital services. But we know that the world has progressed a long way from that. Businesses now need a digital solution for booking their forex and making payments – and it needs to be mobile.”
For fast-moving businesses, the benefits of mobile applications are obvious. The old model, of calling an FX dealer and giving requests and instructions over the phone, simply doesn’t work any more. Dealers keep office hours, while global businesses don’t. Forex rates change by the second; if you’re not always on, you can’t possibly keep track of the market.
“The new FX solution on the Absa Access Mobile app lets business clients view live rates on their smartphone,” Molefe says. “They can also place and manage their FX orders which means giving instructions to the bank to trade on their behalf if the market hits a certain level.”
For example, if the rand is trading at R15 to the US dollar, business clients can issue a standing order – via their smartphone – to purchase dollars when that exchange rate hits R14. “You can manage that instruction by either amending the level (“Please buy for me when the level gets to R13”) or the amount (“Instead of buying $10 000, I would like to buy $30 000),” Molefe explains.
Those orders can also be cancelled at any time, and access to the app is secured by unique credentials (unique username, strong password) and biometrics.
Building further capabilities
FX order management is just the first step in the mobile evolution. Molefe says that Absa Access Mobile will soon expand to include outright FX execution as well. “Here business clients will be able to book a spot forward and view any live transactions within the mobile app,” Molefe says.
“For post-trade requirements, we’re also looking into introducing approvals for payments. Because every forex transaction must be settled, businesses will buy currency and load the instruction to pay their overseas supplier in that currency. That instruction may require internal approval, so we’re looking to introduce that functionality as well.”
Innovation will, inevitably, build on innovation. For now, Molefe is excited about introducing this Africa-first technology to the market.
“This app-based capability is for anybody who’s interested in being able to manage their business FX risk wherever they are, as easily as possible, on a device that they always have with them,” he says.
“We’re all using connected mobile devices for so many aspects of our lives – our banking, our grocery shopping, even catching a lift somewhere. It’s only natural that something as important as managing our forex risk – and all aspects of our corporate banking – should be available on a mobile platform as well.”
The Absa Access Mobile app, with FX management, is available now for iOS and Android. Please speak to the Absa Access support team for details on installation.