We asked the Top Financial Services, Insurance, and Retail companies in South Africa – Is Data the New Currency?

Estimated read time 9 min read


The management of data quality is a common struggle across companies and industries. Prioritising fraud prevention and having insight into data can have a ripple effect on the economy. Everything is hyper-personalised by tracking people’s engagements, clicks, and movements.  Insights into this invaluable data can enable rapid instant information with various benefits. 

To explore the value of Data Streaming, we took a deep dive into some of South Africa’s Top Financial Services, Insurance, and Retail companies. Earlier this month, Synthesis hosted Confluent Round Tables in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, moderated by Colin Iles. We invited our clients; Standard Bank, ABSA, FNB, Osiris Trading, Discovery Vitality, Old Mutual, RMB, Momentum Metropolitan, Sanlam, and Woolworths, where we had an engaging discussion on data journeys, use cases, and challenges. 

A common theme across the companies is at the use case level. Understanding how Data streaming can really add value to business processes and benefit the company as a whole. 

Some of the Use Cases for Confluent Data Streaming that were identified include the following: 

  • Instant Gratification

Discovery, Vitality dominates as the most mature platform using Confluent Cloud. The company needed speed of data and insight into individual experiences. Confluent Data Streaming enabled instant gratification where the data gathered from incentives and insights are used for decision-making. 

“Individuals receive points for a smoothie while they are on a run – instant reward, instant gratification,” says a representative from Discovery, Vitality. 

  • Fraud Prevention

At Standard Bank, Confluent Data Streaming is used for fraud detection and prevention purposes. It enables real-time prompts which assists the bank in detecting fraud as it takes place. 

The bank was looking for ways to detect fraud as quickly as it happens, and Confluent Data Streaming assisted in solving the challenge,” says a representative from Standard Bank. 

Choosing how to interact with consumers reduces anxiety and allows you to remodel your business and software.  At Sanlam, data streaming is used to leverage insights by conducting background checks, such as confirming someone’s ID and using data streaming to leverage the insights from that data. 

By being an effective bouncer, you are able to get as many logs as possible to shine a light on fraud. Solve real-time fraud. To, not only, detect but prevent” says Darren Bak, Synthesis Head of Intelligent Data. 

  • Call Centre Events 

Customers will believe you when you tell them, “Your call is important to us”. The reality is that an average call center receives thousands of calls per month and, companies don’t have visibility from the start of the call to the end. Using event streaming, you can make it a reusable system where you gain insight at every step of the process.  

With Kafka, we are about to tap into event statuses of claims in an call center environment. Kafka enables you to tap into an event status and respond quickly” says a representative from Discovery, Vitality.

  • The “Netflix” experience

Confluent Data Streaming can be used for many use cases.

A typical scenario: 

Jack downloads an app but doesn’t use it. 

Just from that alone, we know who Jack is, his GPS location, and other insightful information in real time. It allows for personalised messaging to Jack that can generate potential revenue just from the insights of data generated.  

Tracking events and users of an event using analytical data to build persistent storage in real-time. Rapid transactions are the value,” says a representative at Old Mutual

Can you use Confluent to improve existing infrastructure and enable rules in the data stream?

Confluent Data Streaming enables rules along the data stream. Mainframe events become real-time, and companies can tap into that for various use cases. In terms of legacy, learning from the system and understanding how the mainframe operates allows you to summarise and add rules to data processes.  Platforms need to be modernised and Confluent Data Streaming enables the idea of having a central hub that collects data as a Data App. 

Data is a new currency. Upload data on the data app for permanent storage and find analytics from data. There is no need to build multiple data streaming platforms” says a representative from FNB

Synthesis has been a Confluent partner since 2018, with advanced experience and skills. Confluent Data Streaming is not an emerging technology and has been implemented successfully globally with a number of success stories. It’s all about business value and data quality. Data Streaming is a reactive application that can future-proof your organisation. 

We need to start thinking of data as ongoing value and data management = data quality. Data is never 100% accurate, therefore data quality and foundational data management practices need to be applied. In order for us to say that data is a currency, we need to make sure we value it,” says Darren Bak. 

How can Confluent Data Streaming be used for Data Quality?

Remember what they say, “garbage in, garbage out”. Data quality is crucial and good data quality will give you great insights,” says a representative from Standard Bank. 

Confluent Cloud has stream governance and design principles to improve data quality. By charging your data, you need to make sure that it’s worth paying for. Data quality is a human thing. It is everyone’s responsibility. 

Companies need to adapt to fast data. There is more demand for real-time data. People want instant gratification and instant access to data. There is an entire reality that you didn’t know exists. Discovery, Vitality is ahead of the curve. It’s less about complexity and more about having a bouncer”, says a representative from Discovery, Vitality.

How do you start small without over-investing, and how do you get your business buy-in and commitment?  

Understand that it is a process. Getting your systems to speak to each other on a single platform is important. If a single team buys in, there is no value. There needs to be buy-in across the organisation. 

You are going to die nine times before you win, but when you win, you will see the value,” says a representative from Sanlam. 

Start small to prove value. A small proof of concept that shows value assists with organisation buy-in. Selling to the business at a segment level and then the board will make the journey better and easier. 

“The common challenge is that we want data more often. The solution you’re going to hear is “so just run a batch more frequently” but this limits you. If it is real-time, there is no waiting period”, says a representative from Old Mutual. 

Having state-of-the-art tech will assist you in staying relevant and competitive. The tech is not the issue, it’s the people and culture that are important, and understanding the problem to not only try and solve it but to communicate the value of solving it effectively. 

It’s about organisational competitiveness, if you are not upgrading you might be falling behind. People are becoming comfortable with instant gratification so use storytelling to sell the value” say Nick Walker, Confluent. 

Culture is progressive. Companies want to be better and don’t want to have a lot of constraints. Having effective change management will also enable a proactive culture and assist you in the process.

Some of the companies’ challenges with their first implementation include: 

ABSA: “Bleeding fear of being the first one to go cloud”.  

Osiris Trading: “Having good security expertise and skills.”  

Standard Bank: “Change management and communication of what it all means for the organisation as a whole.” 

70% of Fortune 500 companies buy into the concept but not in South Africa – How are other companies motivating value? 

The answer is three-fold, explains Jack Bingham, Confluent: 

  1. Integration

Organisations are siloed with multiple integrations. They treat data at rest instead of a stream where they are not getting any value. They need to move data from a silo to a stream.  

  1. Event Streaming Apps: 

By treating data as a stream, they will be able to walk that journey and define the processes and benefits. It’s not just about “real-time” data, it’s about the RIGHT data. The right data is invaluable.  

  1. Potential Use Cases: 

What does the business not have insight into that can be a game changer if they did? Businesses need to understand and identify the value and potential use cases to cross-sell, hyper-sell, and create business value.  

How is it growing, saving, and protecting the business? 

Problem question: 

If you knew the state of every event in your business and could reason on top of that data in real-time, what problems would you solve, or opportunities would you capitalise on?


The Data Streaming platform will provide the right event data, in the right format, at the right time, for consumption anywhere and at any scale.

This needs to speak to non-tech people who are not necessarily going to understand the tech. Recognise that so many mechanisms are used to understand data and what companies do if they try adding on. Why not use one mechanism as a data stream that can be used for different channels? Reusable events that empower IT with innovative ideas. 

Some advice for new investors in Confluent Data Streaming: 

Don’t walk the journey alone. Focus on what it all means and what the objective is – Data Quality. Everyone is considering Rands and Cents. By crystalising the opportunity for the rest of the organisation, you will get more buy-in. 

PR : Rubicomm

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