• Plans to accelerate its digital banking capabilities through strategic tech investments
  • These technological enhancements are expected to improve operational efficiencies
  • However, the bank faces recurring customer complaints around difficulties in completing basic transactions

Harare- Steward Bank, the lone remaining financial services entity within the EcoCash Holdings group, is poised to drive a digital banking expansion through strategic investments in transformative technologies. This is according to the Group’s financial results for the full year 2024.

These technological enhancements will fortify operational efficiencies and expand the suite of products and services offered to the discerning customer base.

The implementation of these innovative solutions will necessitate a parallel scaling up of the Bank's underlying infrastructure and processes, ultimately driving shareholder value accretion.

“Post the Scheme of Reconstruction, the Bank, which will be the remaining unit under EcoCash Holdings, is poised to drive a digital banking expansion as it invests in technologies to enhance operational efficiencies and increase the product offering to customers,” the group’s chairperson Sherree Shereni said in a statement accompanying the FY2024 financials.

“These technological innovations will necessitate a parallel scaling up of the Bank’s underlying systems and processes and grow shareholder value”.

On April 17th, 2024, the shareholders approved a scheme of reconstruction, whereby all non-banking assets will be transferred from EcoCash Holdings Zimbabwe Limited to Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Limited. Importantly, this scheme will not result in the delisting of EcoCash Holdings Zimbabwe Limited from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

The technological roadmap may include upgrading the core banking systems to enable faster transaction processing and more sophisticated digital service offerings and plans to leverage data analytics and machine learning capabilities to better understand customer needs and preferences, thereby enabling the design of more personalized and tailored solutions.

Despite being the market leader in terms of depositers base, Steward Bank's customer service has been perceived as opaque, with recurrent complaints regarding the inability to complete basic transactions and instances of card blockages even after correct PIN entry. These customer grievances have been prominently featured across the Bank's social media channels, especially X.

One of the most concerning issues with Steward Bank is their approach to PIN blocking. As of 2023, the only way to unblock it was to obtain a new card and physically visit a Steward Bank branch. This is highly inconvenient for customers.

Why can't Steward Bank adopt a technology like other banks, where customers can unblock their card through a mobile app on phone? Requiring customers to go to the bank and potentially pay fees just to unblock a card is unnecessarily burdensome.

Many major banks across Africa, such as Standard Bank, Equity Bank, FirstBank, Absa Bank, and Stanbic Bank, allow customers to unblock their mobile banking cards through remote customer service channels. The customer can contact the bank, verify their identity, and the bank can simply unblock the existing card without requiring a new one.

Steward Bank should look to implement more efficient, customer-friendly unblocking procedures as part of improving their overall operational efficiency and competitiveness. Providing seamless, digital-first unblocking options would also greatly enhance the customer experience.

Currently, Steward Bank offers a comprehensive suite of digital solutions to provide its customers with a modern, convenient, and secure banking experience. At the core of their digital offerings is an advanced online banking platform that allows customers to seamlessly manage their accounts, view transactions, transfer funds, pay bills, and even deposit checks remotely.

Complementing the online banking capabilities, Steward Bank has developed a feature-rich mobile banking app, enabling customers to access their accounts and perform banking tasks on-the-go using their smartphones or tablets.

To further enhance the customer experience, Steward Bank has integrated conversational AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants to provide efficient and responsive support for basic inquiries and transactions.

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