FNB’s ‘Bank in a Can’ Delivers Financial Services to Rural Africa


FNB Bank in a Can

Bank in a Can is an innovative solution for people in rural Africa who lack access to the reliable banking services and ATMs so many of us take for granted. A collaboration between South Africa’s FNB (First National Bank) and Johannesburg-based architects A4AC (Architecture For a Change), the pop-up bank branches include bank teller windows, offices for opening an account or applying for a loan, and separate modules for ATMs.

FNB A$AC Banking in a Can

The prefabricated banking units made from raw shipping containers can be delivered to remote, rural areas and are operational within weeks. The foundations and structural infrastructure are prepared prior to the arrival of mobile units and the roof structure is installed over the units.

“South Africa still has a large section of the population that has limited access to banking facilities and we want to turn this around,” said Lee-Ann van Zyl, CEO of FNB Points of Presence, the banking group that commissioned the mobile units.

FNB Bank in a Can

The entire process, from raw shipping container to operational banking module, takes about three months. The first Bank in a Can was installed in Mutale, Limpopo, in the northernmost province of South Africa. Each prefabricated container is branded with graphics inspired by different local contexts.

As Finextra noted, “FNB is not the first bank to look to the shipping industry for a solution to low-cost branch expansion. Tangerine Bank has also opened four temporary pop-up locations in shipping containers across Canada as a way of introducing customers to its direct banking channels.”

Innovation has long been in FNB’s DNA. In 2012, FNB was named the world’s most innovative bank in the BAI-Finacle Global Banking Innovation Awards, which is a joint programme between BAI and Finacle Infosys. The accolade looks at breakthrough innovation in the global retail banking industry that positively impacts banks and their customers.

Some of the innovations that led to the award include development of a mobile banking app, designing a loyalty rewards program and investing in mobile and digital platforms. FNB has also launched its own branded smartphones to support the country’s mobile banking growth following the launch of FNB Connect, a mobile virtual network operator in 2015.

The FNB slogan is: “How can we help you?” The answer—making banking accessible and bringing mobile banking services to underserved markets.

(Images via A4AC Architects)