Nedbank's chief executive Mike Brown with Pepper.
JOHANNESBURG - Nedbank on Friday said it was well placed to shrug off competition from tech-savvy new entrants Discovery and Tyme, and former FNB’s chief executive Michael Jordaan’s Bank Zero.

The bank said it had deployed 33 software robots to improve process efficiencies in the year ended December and that this would reach 200 by the end of this year.

Nedbank also launched Pepper, the first humanoid robot in the country at its digital-only branch at the Gautrain Station in Sandton. Pepper, which was created by SoftBank, the robot can be programmed to recognise principal human emotions, voice, chat with customers and answer questions.

Nedbank said Pepper would also tour various Nedbank branches throughout the country from next month.

Nedbank chief executive Mike Brown said the bank’s clients access to banking had improved through the bank’s network of 10003 intelligent depositor devices.

“We increased the total number of digitally focused new-image branches to 336, or 55percent, of all outlets. Digitally active and enabled clients grew as we launched new market-leading digital innovations, with the new Nedbank Money app downloaded more than 300000 times since its launch in November 2017,” Brown said.

Nedbank also said that it had launched 46 new video bankers, 243 new intelligent depositors, 249 self-service kiosks and that 200000 statements were processed by intelligent depositors monthly. The bank would also launch its new loyalty and reward programme this year.

Discovery will be launching banking products in the next few months, after having received authorisation last year from the Registrar of Banks.

Jordaan - who resigned from FNB in 2013 and became a tech venture capitalist - earlier this year announced that he was back and building a bank.

Bank Zero, an app-driven bank, has been granted a provisional licence after an evaluation process by the South African Reserve Bank.

Tyme Digital, backed by billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital, said last year it has been granted a licence by the central bank.

Asief Mohamed, the chief investment officer at Aeon Investment Management, said he expected Discovery Bank to attract clients from other banks and put pressure on profits.

Raisibe Morathi, the chief financial officer at Nedbank, said the group was spending more than R2billion a year across its digital platforms.

Nedbank reported a growth of 2.8percent in headline earnings to R11.7bn in the year ended December. However, when excluding the bank’s investment in Ecobank, the headline earnings were 7.8percent up at R12.7bn.

The group’s corporate and investment banking unit saw its profits increase 5percent to R6.3bn, while the retail and business banking saw profits jump 6.9percent to R5.3bn.

The markets welcomed Nedbank’s performance in the period under review, with the bank’s share price closing Friday’s trading session 1.64percent up at R294. The group's share price is up 39percent in the past three months.