As Ecobank operates Zimbabwean online bank, it leaves out 2 major blocks


There was a time when retail banking was a cinch for bankers. At least it looked like that. Anyone who wanted to tap into formal financial services or needed to put money aside (all these people who had formal jobs) was forced to contact one of the registered financial institutions and enter into a relationship with them.

Then the economy changed, and in the wake of that transformation, technology came along and triggered even deeper adjustments in the way people handle money. People no longer need to go to a bank. Most Zimbabweans don’t even care. Those who do are not required to have any face-to-face relationship with their banker.

So it stands to reason that all banks invest in online banking services. The last to make this inevitable commitment was Ecobank Zimbabwe.

In a story carried by News day, it was reported that Ecobank has launched a series of Visa and Mastercard products, namely Ecobank Premier Debit Card, Ecobank Advantage Card, Visa Ecobank Classic Debit Card and Ecobank Direct Bank Card.

These are meant to cater to a diverse customer base, although it is a bit ironic that Ecobank is attacking debit card services when the latest Central Bank report showed their usage declining.

Ecobank has a simple strategy and the bank’s chief executive, Daniel Sackey, reportedly laid it out last week. With all of these alternatives to plastic money, the bank is increasing its customers’ access to their accounts, and if you tie that up with a relationship Zimswitch and others No need to ask modern banking add-ons like online banking and online transfers, Ecobank follows the rest of the pack.

Is this enough however in a 2015 Zimbabwe that is proudly an informal economy? It would appear that the glaring omission of Ecobank’s strategy is an aggressive adoption of local retail banking alternatives.

There should be mobile money in this mix

It does not have to be a marriage with EcoCash from Econet (this “Eco” suffix is ​​purely coincidental – no relation exists). Other mobile money services like Telecash, the docile OneWallet and the independent network Nettcash could, if properly paired, tap into the informal billion dollar market monopolized by mobile money services.

After all, this strategy has already been adopted by Ecobank Nigeria through partnerships with Airtel, Glo and Etisalat, but also in Kenya with a marriage of convenience with Safaricom’s MPESA, the mobile money juggernaut that sparked all of this disruption.

Hire agents

Another option could be the use of a network of bank agents. Steward Bank got down to it first with “his” EcoCash agents and ZB Bank followed suit after identifying the opportunity of setting up a bank in each neighborhood. Of these two institutions, it is safe to say that remote financial services are not that difficult to set up.

This would significantly expand Ecobansk’s branch network and create a presence in areas where opening new doors has become costly.

But I could be wrong. Maybe their target market doesn’t need these services. Perhaps Ecobank Zimbabwe’s strategy to increase its deposits and provide high levels of convenience to customers has nothing to do with mobile banking.

It might be strong $ 44 million in core capital, strong relationships with external investors and Half-year profit of $ 3.3 million recorded last June all offer a gap against the dangers of innovations and a different economic context.

If so, it is just retail banking as it used to be and there should be no worries that Ecobank does not adapt to the market around it.

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