When Tito Mboweni, the South African Finance Minister, makes the cognitive leap and blames 4IR for the recent Standard Bank branch closures, I think he is missing two very important points (or just ducking the issue).
Firstly, given that unemployment is at 55.2% for economically active South Africans between 15 and 24, (39.6% for economically active South Africans between 15 and 34) 4IR has the potential to tip the local economy into the abyss unless 4IR is harnessed, and harnessed quickly. The point, or issue, is who has the responsibility to re-purpose the reported 1,200 employees displaced by the Standard Bank branch closures and to ensure that they continue as productive citizens to the betterment of themselves, their families and the country as a whole?
Secondly, Standard Bank are closing branches in response to consumers changing their banking habits. People across the spectrum have much better things to do with their time (and money) than travelling to the branch, standing in queues and being dealt with over the counter.
When was the last time you were in the branch? I could argue that Standard Bank are a “little late to the party” given that TymeBank claim to be on track to acquire 1 million customers by the end of 2019 and Discovery Bank are about to on-board 1,000 customers a day – but that’s for another time.
Consumers are under such time, effort, and cost pressures they’re looking for every efficiency gain they can get. Very happy to pop into a bookshop, see what’s new, compare prices with takealot.com or Amazon (a practice called show-rooming) and then make a buy decision (in-store or online) depending on their primary value driver.
So, with the consumer demanding “Simpler, Better, Faster”, the consumer must bear some of the responsibility for the consequences. The harsh reality is that each and every one of us bears responsibility to ensure we stay relevant in a world where the rate of change is increasing (this is why we’re all so time-poor) – what role will the private sector and governments play? How much of the financial burden of re-skilling and retraining will they bear?
These two mega-factors – easing the life of the consumer by leveraging 4IR technology and actively deploying people into their second, third, fourth careers will become the dynamic for the next couple of decades to come.