Jolandé DuvenageJolandé Duvenage

Recruited over 10 years ago, Jolandé Duvenage has been with eBucks since its inception in 2000. Now, Duvenage takes the company’s reins as CEO, succeeding Lezanne Human, who has been appointed CEO of IPH/Premier at First National Bank (FNB).
eBucks was launched in October 2000, and is ’s rewards programme. Users collect eBucks by transacting, and can redeem their points through any of the programme’s partners.

Prior to her appointment as CEO, Duvenage was executive head of innovation for eBucks. “I am both honoured and excited to be given this opportunity,” she says.

Where it began

Recalling the start of eBucks, she says one of the highs of the journey was the launch itself. “We had to launch this initiative in 100 days,” she says. “We were really bold and passionate and we didn’t sleep. We just got on with it. I’ve often said I’ve never eaten so much pizza fed underneath the door for me, and never slept, and barely saw my husband than when we launched eBucks.”

She says at the beginning, people without banking knowledge were recruited for eBucks. “I started off not knowing what I was going to do here at eBucks,” she says. “We had to take the leap not really knowing what this offering was going to be all about. But you wanted to be part of it.”

At the beginning, she explains, eBucks was closely linked to ’s Internet banking offering, but has since become more independent.

“Over time as we progressed, the Internet banking offering became its own separate entity for very specific reasons. When you’re in a banking space, you want everything to be efficient and fast and quick. Whereas if you’re in a rewards environment, you want to feel rewarded, it’s lighter. We live life lighter.”

Going strong

Some of the highlights for Duvenage have been the programme’s many firsts. “There were times we could convince regulators to give us the chance to do something where they’ve said no to everybody. For example, when we launched the ability to sell Lotto tickets online. For many years, eBucks was the only legal online supplier of Lotto tickets. Or the ability to top up and draw from your PayPal account, which has been spearheaded by the eBucks team. Again, we have the ability to work with the regulator.

“When we launched virtual movie vouchers in 2005, that was a first for the South African market. When we launched eBucks online auctions, which typically isn’t something any of the rewards programmes did, but we took that opportunity. It was quite interesting, at that stage, quite a lot of programmes in the world ended up contacting us. ‘How did you do it? Can we learn from you?’ And it’s so great that it was a loyalty initiative.

“An absolute highlight for us was in March 2008, when we knew we had allocated R1 billion in eBucks. That is quite a substantial number, and now, that number is standing at R1.8 billion.”

In the current economic climate, Duvenage says eBucks recipients have begun to use their rewards for more frugal pursuits. “In the past, people would have used their eBucks to splash out on adventurous overseas holidays. Now, you see a lot of people using the eBucks to buy groceries, to buy airtime, everyday things. We need to support that and we need to find more of those things where we can help the consumer stretch their rand.”

Question everything

To keep eBucks innovative, Duvenage says as CEO, she will encourage people to question the status quo. “I’m not scared to question things, and I’m not scared for people around me to question things. In a corporate environment, it’s easy to start breeding holy cows. We typically tell people to question everything that is there today. Is there anything that needs to change? Because that will set us up better for future success.

“I think that is probably the biggest pothole these days, where companies get it wrong. They just get complacent after a while and say ‘Look, I’m on top of my game’. So for me, really, it is about keeping that momentum and energy in the team, to say let’s always strive to make it better, and smarter, and how can we do it differently?”

Duvenage also has some projects in the pipeline, she says. “There are quite a few things we are involved in, and we are trying to crack a few things that haven’t been cracked before. Watch this space.”