JOHANNESBURG – The completion of Capitec Bank Ltd.’s gleaming new headquarters should have been a reason to celebrate. Instead, the outbreak of Covid-19 meant the lender had to send staff home even before some of them had even moved in.
“It’s a little bit sad,” Chief Executive Officer Gerrie Fourie said by phone from the premises near Stellenbosch, east of Cape Town. “The first 500 were in and then we had to get everyone out.”
South Africa introduced a strict, nationwide lockdown on March 27 to contain the spread of the coronavirus and shuttered almost all business activity, except for essential services. Despite being counted among the sectors allowed to continue operating, banks had most staff working remotely.
Although restrictions have since been eased to the lowest alert level, only about 200 people, or 10% of the building’s capacity, work from the office daily.
“We believe strongly that we need to have this building for culture, team work and motivation, especially for new employees,” Fourie said. “I think that’s going to be one of the challenges.”
While Capitec is committed to its R800 million ($47.6 million) building, whose shape mirrors the company logo, it’s rethinking the use of other space such as call centers, Fourie said. The bank, which reported a profit slump of 78% for the six months through August, plans to add about 200 staff after limiting recruitment to essential areas earlier this year.