Inside Discovery’s New Bank

The latest innovation by Adrian Gore. 


Led by founder and Group CEO Adrian Gore, Discovery is revolutionising the banking industry essentially creating a new category of banking. 

Banks have been around in some form or other since the first coins were minted. The use of coins as currency grew out of taxation by rulers; as empires expanded, coins of varying sizes, made from valuable metals, served as a way to pay for goods and services.

Coins, however, need to be kept in a safe place. For this reason, many wealthy people held “accounts” at their local temples, where the priests and workers were trusted as being both devout and honest. Records from ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and Babylon suggest the temples also loaned out the money entrusted to them. However, the fact that many temples were located in city centres made them a target for ransacking during times of conflict.

It was the Romans who took such banking out of the temples and moved it into distinct secure buildings, establishing lending and allowing these early bankers to profit from the taking in and loaning out of money.

In South Africa, banks were traditionally associated with buildings – until the arrival of digital banking and the launch of Discovery Bank.

Led by founder and Group CEO Adrian Gore, Discovery is revolutionising the industry essentially creating a new category of banking around shared value to make a real difference in its clients’ lives as well as in society; consistent with its core purpose of making people healthier and enhancing and protecting their lives.

Discovery Bank’s shared value banking model considers individual financial behaviours to understand how financially healthy clients are. In turn, through the AI-powered Vitality Money programme, clients get rewards for managing their money well as measured through the five controllable behaviours: spend less than household earnings, save regularly, pay off property, invest for the long term, and to have essential insurance in place.

Discovery Bank quantifies and monetizes the value of lower financial risk and returns this to banking clients in the form of real financial gains.

These take the form of better interest rates on credit borrowing and savings, and unprecedented discounts and rewards at partners; along with Discovery Miles – a powerful rewards currency.

It’s easy to see the vast difference between traditional banks and this new banking category. According to Gore, traditional banks operate on the basis of how wealthy you are. Discovery Bank is not like that; good financial decision-making is largely unrelated to income level and the bank’s research demonstrates that financial wellbeing is less about income level and more about how individuals manage their money – and to initiate and sustain a change in behaviour requires an understanding of how individuals think about and interact with their finances.

The bank, headed by CEO Hylton Kallner, has taken on more than 300 000 clients and has seen growth to over 500 000 accounts with over R6.5 billion in deposits.

Although the system is complex and robust, the experience is made simple through an intuitive app that provides everything the client needs – without ever having to set foot in a branch.

The bank has been rolled out during a difficult time, with the world undergoing a significant shift. This, however, did not stop Discovery from serving its clients.

In fact, Discovery has used technology to keep its global team working from home during the pandemic, and serving client in their homes, too.

Discovery uses technology to educate and advise clients. For instance, Discovery Life proactively finds and alerts eligible claimants based on Discovery Health data. Discovery has proven to be a really innovative company, something only made possible due to its excellent leadership.

Gore and the Discovery team have been hands-on during this difficult time, available for the company’s staff and clients, and for society at large. Among other things, Gore and the Discovery team have been at the forefront of the national vaccine rollout programme. Gore is a man focussed on the future. He understands that as the future unfolds, capitalism will need to become purpose driven. According to him, the future is cashless.

This means digital payments will largely replace cash payments, just as Discovery Bank has replaced the traditional bank building with a digital bank. He also foresees a future where telehealth becomes a key innovation and feature of the health sector.

Gore knows this because the Discovery Health team has started using telehealth tools to serve clients during the pandemic. How has Discovery managed to deliver the shared value model across sectors that include financial services and health across international markets? Through the V1 Platform – Vitality Group’s global, cloud-based, web-scale behavioural change platform. It has been in production for 2½ years, growing to 4 global production environments and hosting 13 countries.

People engage with the Vitality programme digitally and the addition of a number of global reward partners has further increased the value and attractiveness of the Vitality product and it offers a single point of entry for Vitality Group global partners to integrate wearable devices and health apps into their offerings, without establishing independent relationships with multiple device manufacturers.

The company has been able to build such innovative solutions due to great partnerships, its approach to skills development, and great technology leadership. Discovery’s collaboration with Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a US-based company, has also been key to enhancing Vitality Drive technology, features and rewards.

Discovery Graduate Hackathon

Discovery invests significantly in skills development, working closely with universities to source and nurture needed skills. One of the programmes that has been instrumental in developing innovative talent is Discovery Graduate Hackathon for IT students (GradHack), which invites third-year and honours IT students to submit ideas, and to develop innovative solutions in small teams.

The 2019 GradHack finals hosted 36 graduates. A total of 22 of them joined Discovery as full-time employees in January 2020, further supporting Discovery’s aim to diversify and prepare its workforce for the future.

The Discovery leadership and team is not innovative by accident; learning is key. The company recently launched a group-wide learning academy to provide a curated set of online career paths for Discovery employees, aimed at promoting career development and creating a pipeline of new talent.

Innovation at Discovery is further supported by a Digital Lab, which is overseen by the group chief digital officer. Through the Digital Lab, the group can apply digital best practices and identify opportunities for business collaboration in, among others, AI, automation or speech recognition.

Such fourth industrial revolution technologies are key to developments at Discovery. Technologies such as the Internet of Things underpin Discovery’s approach to improving wearable device integration and their increasingly sophisticated Vitality Health checks.

As evident in how Discovery Bank has moved banking from a bricks-and-mortar to a digital institution, Discovery continues to shine as a company delivering world class, globally-relevant innovations. –
Wesley Diphoko


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