Banks in South Africa have less than a month to ensure compliance with a new conduct standard, or risk facing hefty fines.
The conduct standard, which was published on 3 July 2020 and issued under the Financial Sector Regulation Act of 2017, aims to entrench the fair treatment of customers from banks across all service platforms – including social media.
Jessica Blumenthal, an executive at law firm ENSafrica, said that while some of the conduct standard provisions have already come into operation, the remaining provisions – which includes the section regulating customer complaints – will come into force on 3 July 2021.
“In terms of Section 8, all banks must establish, maintain and operate a complaints management framework, which provides for appropriate complaint record-keeping, monitoring and analysis.
“Banks will then need to report to their governing bodies and relevant committees outlining identified risks, trends and remedial action taken,” she said.
The conduct standard defines a ‘complaint’ to include an expression of dissatisfaction relating to a financial product or service provided or offered by a bank which alleges that the bank or its service provider has treated the person unfairly.
“Banks are obligated to monitor and report on all complaints falling in that definition, regardless of the medium through which they are raised. This includes social media,” said Blumenthal.
Research from customer data company BrandsEye shows that local banks are currently not meeting the six Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) outcomes based on social media conversations.
“We discovered that 90.7% of negative social feedback included TCF themes, which means that the vast majority of banks’ online complaints are applicable for scrutiny from the regulator,” said BrandsEye chief executive Nic Ray.
Ray said almost half of all social media posts requiring banks’ attention and action went unanswered in 2020, another big concern.
“This highlights a critical need for banks to drastically improve their social media customer service and complaint management efforts. Failing to swiftly identify and respond to service requests online, exposes banks not only to regulatory risk, but also the reputational risks that such sanctions would generate,” Ray said.
Banks will need to be better
Metumo Shilongo, a senior associate at ENSafrica, said that financial institutions will need to revisit their compliance tools and processes to ensure that all possible complaints channels, including social media conversations, are monitored as required by the conduct standard.
“As the remaining provisions become effective, this will become more pertinent,” he said.
While AI and machine learning tools can aid companies in adapting to these new regulatory requirements, Ray said that banks will need to do more than keyword matching to prove that they are strategically analysing complaints and making meaningful operational interventions.
“This is where a human verification layer is required, which allows financial organisations to not only structure complaints against the TCF outcomes, but also understand the root causes behind the complaints,” Ray said.
Business Talk – In conversation with Old Mutual Insure’s Christelle Colman