Bessy Mahopo, Standard Bank’s CIO (CIB – Transactional Banking) explains how one of South Africa’s largest banks is using its own digital transformation successes as a template to support the country’s ongoing technological evolution.

At 162 years old, Standard Bank is one of the largest banks and financial services groups in South Africa. Based in Johannesburg, it’s the biggest lender in the country by assets, and – accelerated by multiple acquisitions in the 1980s and 1990s – has thousands of employees and millions of clients. Its goal is simple: growing banking in Africa. Hand-in-hand with this is its ambition of developing and encouraging the use of advanced technology in South Africa and the continent beyond. For Transaction Banking, this drive is led by Bessy Mahopo.

Bessy Mahopo is CIO (CIB – Transactional Banking) at Standard Bank and has a wealth of experience behind her.

Bessy Mahopo is CIO (CIB – Transactional Banking) at Standard Bank.

During her time as a CIO, Mahopo has led and delivered multiple organisation-wide projects which have led to huge digital transformations, including replatforming and refactoring of an organisation’s systems into a private cloud, using custom-off-the-shelf application systems to transform basic manual processes to digital processes, and a transformation programme creating an optimised workforce.

South Africa’s transformation

“South Africa is one of the strongest economies in Africa,” she explains. “It has a highly developed economy and an advanced infrastructure. It has well-established financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors. It’s also one of the largest exporters of gold, platinum, and other natural resources in the world, and has Africa’s largest stock exchange. Due to all of this, and the necessity to frequently transact with first world countries, there is pressure here to accelerate technology. As such, transformation is an ongoing thing and it’s always growing.”

Standard Bank staff - 2023

Transformative technology

Standard Bank is singularly dedicated to improving the technology landscape of South Africa by overhauling IT from the inside out. At its core, it’s always evolving and developing. It was one of the first banks in Africa to migrate its production workloads, including customer-facing platforms and strategic core banking applications, to the cloud (both AWS and Microsoft Azure). “In CIB transactional banking, all our strategic platforms have either been migrated into the AWS cloud, or those that have been implemented in the last couple of years are cloud-native,” Mahopo explains. “The ambition is to have all our critical business operations running in the cloud by 2025.”

For Mahopo, what her team at Standard Bank is building is “a new world” of technology. This new world is all about client-driven technology solutions, cloud tech, security, harvesting of data, and taking advantage of modern architectures. These things will encourage better relationships and experiences with clients, resilient solutions that are easily scalable, and firmly frame Standard Bank as an ecosystem driver.

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