Stanbic lace up in line with accelerated changes in the COVID-19 era

  • Stanbic is set to discontinue its physical operations at Hwange and Westgate branches
  • The digitization drive is in line with world-wide technological advancement trends
  • Stanbic was the first to launch contactless debit cards and POS machines in Zim

COVID-19 brought a whole host of unforeseen changes to business operations – banks included. Among them, a lengthy and unprecedented closure period for nonessential business operations. New health protocols. Masks. But the pandemic has also acted as a hyper accelerant on forces that have been reshaping the banking space in recent years.

Change is moving through the banking sector like a “wildfire” as the COVID-19 pandemic speeds up a transformation that began well before this year. This change has in larger part to do with digital transformations. The outbreak of the pandemic meant that businesses had to switch to online way of conducting business, but the change has been happening before the outbreak. Perhaps the outbreak made the world become more aware of these digital transformations.

In Zimbabwe, Stanbic Bank Limited is among the banks driving the digital transformation, quite impressively to say. “The Bank continues to implement its digitization strategy as it seeks to remain in sync with the futuristic need for technological advancement as well as the dictates of the new normal brought about by COVID-19,” reads part of a statement released by the Bank on Monday.

The bank said that in line with this digitization journey, it is set to discontinue its physical operations at Hwange and Westgate branches with effect from December 31, 2020. The bank advised of this development in a statement which also assured their customers that they would continue accessing all services on the bank’s various digital banking platforms.

But the digitization migration has been looming long before the outbreak of the virus.

For Stanbic, this digitization exercise kicked off in earnest last year with the closure of Chitungwiza and Beitbridge branches and the two pending closures will leave the Standard bank Group subsidiary with 15 branches countrywide down from 19 last year.

Stanbic Bank Head of Personal and Business Banking, Patson Mahatchi, said the branch closures will not affect the banking needs of existing and potential clients as they will be adequately catered for at other branches and the various digital platforms available.

Mahatchi said accounts currently maintained at Hwange and Westgate branches will be automatically transferred to Victoria Falls and Belgravia branches respectively.

“Our customers can still access self-service digital channels and in-branch services at any of our remaining 15 branches country-wide. We always have our clients’ needs at heart and this digitization exercise will benefit them significantly,” said Mahatchi.

While for such investments to be effective requires a significant chunk of capital investment, it is in line with world-wide technological advancement trends within the financial and non-financial institutions aimed at enhancing ease of banking to customers.

Mr Mahatchi acknowledged that  the digitization drive was already work in progress but was accelerated by the “new normal” brought in by the Covid-19, whereby clients needed to stay safe, often times even working from home, but still enjoy innovative banking solutions.

“Our digitization drive is not only ideal and relevant during the prevailing operating environment in which customers need to stay safe from COVID-19 but is a hallmark of the dictates of new technological advancement. As a bank we have to keep our finger on the pulse of innovation and technological advancement,” said Mahatchi.

During the course of this year, Stanbic Bank launched contactless debit cards and POS machines becoming the first financial services institution to introduce this highly secure innovative technology onto the Zimbabwean market.

Apart from the “contactless” debit cards and point of sale machines, Stanbic bank, stepped up functionality of FCAs on its digital banking platforms in addition to launching a technologically advanced application which allows account holders to pay bills and make in-store purchases on their phone using QR code scanning technology called SlydePay.

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