Johannesburg - First National Bank, the consumer unit of South Africa’s FirstRand, is rolling out more automated teller machines (ATMs) and encouraging customers to use electronic banking products to counter an economic slowdown.

FNB, the first South African lender to create a banking application for smartphones, last year introduced ATMs able to take deposits and reflect the cash in a client’s account immediately.

It wants to improve customer access through its digital banking strategy, Jacques Celliers, chief executive officer of FNB, said in a March 20 interview in Johannesburg.

We “have come to rely much less on the old format of large Taj-Mahal-type branches,” said Celliers, who became chief executive two months ago.

“There are tough times ahead from both a macro perspective as well a regulatory perspective.”

FirstRand said earlier this month that its home market has entered an interest-rate tightening cycle, putting pressure on consumers.

The rate-setting committee of South Africa’s central bank, which raised its benchmark interest rate for the first time in five years in January, will announce the result of its latest policy meeting on March 27. - Bloomberg News