CR2: CR2 makes the smart move into banking for emerging markets

The Dublin-based digital banking firm, a first-time winner this year, is going from strength to strength in developing markets in Africa, Asia and the Middle East

Fintan Byrne, chief executive, CR2: the company is recruiting in software development, customer support, product management and sales and marketing. Picture: Barry Cronin

CR2, the Dublin-based digital banking firm, is on the expansion trail with a growing international presence in developing markets such as Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Now, ahead of plans to create 30 new jobs before the end of the year, the company has been named one of the new winners in this year’s Best Managed Companies awards programme.

CR2 chief executive Fintan Byrne said the company was recruiting for roles in software development, customer support, product management, sales and marketing at its Dublin headquarters and international offices in Dubai, Perth, Amman, Bengaluru and Cairo.

“Covid-19 has triggered accelerated innovation in banking across the world, but more so in emerging and developing markets,” Byrne said.

“The past year has seen banks in these markets rapidly adopt digital channels as their primary access point for acquiring new customers and offering a broad spectrum of daily lifestyle banking and payment services.”

Byrne pointed to Dashen Bank in Ethiopia as just one example of a bank in an emerging market that is leading on digital strategy.

“Dashen Bank registered two million customers within months of launching its digital wallet, which has already surpassed the number of card transactions in retail environments,” Byrne said.

A number of market forces have prompted the growth in digital banking in Ethiopia, according to Byrne.

“Very significant numbers of the population are unbanked; just 24 per cent of Ethiopia’s population is banked,” he said.

“There is also a large younger demographic. Seventy per cent of Ethiopia’s 117 million people are under 25 years of age and they are fuelling the growth in smartphone usage and quickly embracing new technologies.”

In addition, Byrne said, banks in Ethiopia were “not tied down by legacy systems”, enabling the faster rollout of new services.

“These banks are responding quickly to changing customer behaviours as they demand more services and payment capabilities on digital channels, both mobile and online, and are also enabling new services on traditional ATMs to support branch automation strategies,” he said.

CR2 is firmly at the heart of these shifting market dynamics. Founded in 1997, the company works with more than 100 banks in 60 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Customers include Standard Bank, Absa and Access Bank.

It is currently in the process of introducing no-touch cash withdrawals at ATMs in nine countries across Africa.

“This service allows consumers to tee up a transaction on a mobile phone. Through the simple scanning of a QR code at the ATM, the cash is dispensed without physically interacting with the device,” Byrne said.

Using CR2’s digital banking and payments platform, Dashen Bank has partnered with Moneta Technologies, a local fintech company in Ethiopia, to launch Amole, an award-winning digital wallet.

“This wallet has accelerated customer acquisition since its launch in mid-2018, and is now embedded in the daily spending habits of Ethiopians every day,” Byrne said.

Earning the Best Managed Companies accolade for the first time was viewed by all at CR2 as a “great privilege”, Byrne said.

“We found the process itself extremely valuable to our team company-wide, as it shone a critical light on our strategy, capabilities, processes, innovation and — most importantly — our culture and commitment to our team,” he said.

“As an international company, we see this as a global mark of excellence that will be recognised by our customers around the world.”