Celebrating amazing women during a crisis
On this Women’s Day, I would like to celebrate the incredible women at Net1, and the leadership and foresight of one special leader, Musa, Patience Rolls. Patience, who was born and grew up in eZakheni, Section A township, Ladysmith in KZN. She is a valuable and influential member of our leadership team. When I joined Net1, she was the first person to join our team to lead “Change and Renewal” at Net1, as Head Cash and ATMs. She left behind a sterling career of 24 years from an established bank, driven by one purpose, to make a difference in the lives of the underserved. Her choice was to be tested to the fullest in only 3 months on the job.
A few days ago, South Africa faced one of the most violent, widespread, and devastating episodes of violence, looting and destruction of property in KZN and in Gauteng. This destroyed our branches, ATMs, and the branches of and ATM’s of other banks and retailers who are involved in the payment of grants. Times of crisis do not just test leaders, they truly reveal leadership. Patience stood like a colossus as she created a war room in her office, working with Logan Naidoo, our Head of Operations and our security teams and provincial teams. My only request to them was, we must leave no stone unturned, we must ensure that our customers, who receive social grants continue to receive those grants in a dignified manner.
Given our existing infrastructure, Patience reached out to the Banking Association to share our EasyPay ATMs and mobile pay-points with all banks and retailers, to ensure that our customers are not prejudiced. With the various stakeholders and partners, we were able to create an integrated distribution model for the whole country, with specific emphasis on KZN.
With the unrest manly impacting KZN and parts of Gauteng grant clients did not know how they were to receive their grants. Patience led the charge and led our teams in Provinces and branches to give assurance to clients that they will have access to their cash via our different distribution channels. Her office, home and cellphone became the 24/7 nerve centre of the operation to align our 2600 strong staff, 373 branches and the various stakeholders and partners to be completely aligned and to share resources, information, and ideas. Patience and her team, simply did whatever was necessary to go above and beyond the call of duty, working overnight and weekends gathering all the necessary resources to ensure our clients will receive the service we have always provided.
Some of the output of this incredible work included:
- Our production teams based in Laser park, Johannesburg, converted Mobile trucks, installed with ATMs and sent these out to areas most effected within days.
- An additional 33 ATMs were transported overnight and installed at key retailers before the SASSA payout cycle to alleviate pressure in at the stores.
- We have one of the largest and distributed operating networks in South Africa comprising of 3400 pay-points, 1530 ATMs and 373 branches, these were well prepared for these times of uncertainty and anxiety;
- Our ATMs and mobile infrastructure which are fully interoperable with any South African bankcard enabled clients from other banks and the Post Office clients to receive their grants at any of our Mobile ATMs, at our branches or any participating merchant store point of sale devices; and
- We have also waived the ATM cash withdrawal Saswitch fee charged to clients who withdraw cash using ATMs belonging to other banks, as from the 1st August to 30 September 2021
In just a few days, we were ready for a huge logistical, operational, and customer focused effort to deliver on our purpose of Financial Inclusion in the most vulnerable and underserved communities. Patience, who remains rooted to her eZakheni roots, despite all her achievements was driven throughout by a desire to empower and uplift communities by including them on our journey making a positive and meaningful improvement in their lives. She led us in engaging community leaders, church leaders, traditional leaders, and councillors about our plans. Her battle cry was #BeIncluded.
In a matter of days, the payment cycle was upon us, we all held our collective breaths, the well laid plans were an amazing success:
- 99 payment teams were deployed with mobile cash vehicles facilitating payments to all our grant recipients.
- In the last four days, our teams have visited 1138 pay points and will continue to do pay outs until this coming Wednesday. Our teams ensured everyone in the queue was attended to in the most dignified manner.
- 385 of the visits were done in KZN. Additional teams were deployed in Kwa-Mashu, Umlazi and Hammersdale to ease the pressure on retailers.
- Our mobile payment team includes 104 brave women who ensure grant clients receive their grants. Despite the spate of recent robberies, these brave and dedicated women are up before the crack of dawn getting our payment vehicles ready to visit the various pay points, to ensure their communities are never left stranded without their grant payments; and
- In all our 373 branches, of which the majority are women, were able to serve more customers from other banks and retailers, and by all accounts, the payment cycle was a huge success.
- We also fast tracked the deployment of 37 express branches in our rural and urban townships to bring financial services closer to the people are.
On this Women’s Day, I would like to pay homage to Musa Patience Rolls for her leadership, foresight calmness and resilience through a crisis, and all the other women who led in the sessions with SASSA, retailers and banks for their compassion, empathy, and courage in such difficult times.
A happy women’s day to our staff and customers, we hope they can spend this day with their families.