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Capitec’s best kept secret

And Gerrie Fourie’s standing arrangement.
Capitec CEO, Gerrie Fourie addresses shareholders at the bank's AGM on Friday.

STELLENBOSCH – Every other Thursday, Capitec CEO, Gerrie Fourie and his wife Reinie get dressed up and head to the Protea Hotel in Stellenbosch for supper. Along with other Capitec executives and 100 young South Africans, Fourie attends this bi-monthly graduation ceremony to celebrate those who have completed the bank’s training programme for new branch consultants.

Fourie makes a point to attend every single ceremony, some 200 now, and shake each individual’s hand to personally welcome them to the Capitec team. The majority of these bright-eyed young graduates are fresh out of Matric and are experiencing a hotel stay and aeroplane flight for the first time in their lives, visiting a part of the country they have never seen before.

Having already completed a three-week in-branch immersion, in Stellenbosch they spend ten days in intense training to become branch consultants.

In a short speech at the graduation ceremony, Fourie encourages them to put into practice the bank’s values of simplicity, transparency and client-centricity when they start work – for most their first job – at a Capitec branch in their home town the following Monday.

“You’re now part of the Capitec team,” he said at the ceremony this past Thursday, where the 203rd group completed the Firm Foundations programme. “When you’re standing in front of that client, make certain you’ve got the knowledge, you’ve got the energy and you are honest with the client. Make certain you add value in the life of the client,” he emphasised.

Live entertainment and dancing follow the three-course meal and graduation ceremony, with Fourie joining the new recruits on the dance floor before leaving them to party late into the night.

Capitec plans to hire more

The Firm Foundations training programme for customer-facing service staff was launched in 2005 and has created more than 8 000 jobs over the past decade – accounting for the majority of Capitec’s 10 261 employees – at an investment of R170 million.

“As we recruit large numbers of young people, it is natural to lose some of them over time. However, we are encouraged in the knowledge that we created the first development stepping-stone of their careers,” Fourie maintains.

More than a third of Capitec’s employees are 25 and younger, with 73% of staff below the age of 30, the bank’s 2015 annual report reveals

Speaking at Capitec’s AGM on Friday, Fourie said Capitec plans to accelerate the number of people completing the programme from the current 200 a month to around 300, or 150 every two weeks. This is in order to adequately staff its burgeoning branch network and increase capacity at the current 670-odd branches.

Mid- and senior-level executives also complete parts of Firm Foundations, in order to give them a good grounding in the bank’s values and products.

According to the bank’s head of communications, Charl Nel, Capitec seldom recruits staff from other banks, preferring to develop and promote internally and, where necessary, to recruit from retailers. It has to do with a way of thinking, Nel explains, suggesting that people in retail better understand what it means to put clients first.

At the AGM, Fourie recalled receiving a telephone call from one of his senior operations managers at 3pm one Saturday afternoon in February to tell him that 66% of the banks’ branches were still open, despite most of the branch’s closing times being 1pm. “It’s that commitment that you can’t buy,” he said.

When Capitec’s Braamfontein call centre burnt down last year, all but a handful of employees immediately relocated to a disaster recovery centre in Cape Town to continue performing their jobs until an alternative arrangement could be made in Johannesburg. “This shows a real commitment to the brand,” Fourie said.

Whether in their faithful attendance to the Firm Foundations graduation programme every two weeks or in their mid-sized and modest Stellenbosch offices, it seems the executive’s commitment to delivering what the brand stands for is similarly clear. Long may it last.

* This journalist was a guest of Capitec’s in Stellenbosch for the Firm Foundations graduation ceremony and AGM.


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