I know this is the worst week in Zimbabwe to write about the brilliance of a bank but I just had to. Its been about ten days since payday and ATMs are dry, ZimSwitch isn’t working because banks are obviously not willing to share the little cash they have with non customers and everything is bad. This however is not a pessimist view post but a post to celebrate a glimmer of hope in innovative business.
We all know that banks always target college students. I mean why not? Get them now then when they get a job a bank account will always be a requirement and if you’re lucky you will get some faithful customers. if not it will be a few months before they figure out how shitty your service is and jump ship. When we were in college it was Kingdom bank tht came to us and oh did I regret it when I started working. Steward bank took a great leap this past week, not just in banking but in business and in product development Zimbabwe with their new product and partnership.
Steward bank partnered with NUST the Bulawayo based university and Harare Institute of Technology in a move that will prove genius. Mostly because their product is not one that stemmed out of the desires of the students and cries for bank accounts but because they made it first and partnered with the university in such a way that it will be a part of all the students lives and they won’t be able to live without it. A Steve Job-esque stance that looks at how Apple operates, make the product, the customer may be unaware that they need it so make it and give it to them.
Steward banks partnership will mean that all the student ID cards at NUST and HIT are bank cards that are linked to their Ecocash accounts. So not only do they automatically have a bank account with a Bank on a mission to improve on its already reasonable reach (the Steward Bank agent system) but the easiest way to transact in Zimbabwe (Ecocash) is attached to that same card. The Card is ZimSwitch capable, meaning it can prove pretty useful. This is convenience if I ever saw it.
My hat goes off to You Steward bank but it doesnt mean I have no worries.
- Steward Bank have a great thing here so why arent they taking full advantage? why just ZimSwitch with the card? why not MasterCard as well? I mean, its already linked to my Ecocash account so why not just make it a MasterCard students can use to buy their online resources or when they leave the country on holiday. Yes of course they are an Econet subsidiary of sorts and this would feel like an attack on the Ecocash Debit Card but it would be a great business move, Bold and rewarding! Why on earth would someone carry the Ecocash Debit Card if they could carry one that is the same thing plus bank account? At a time like this when the lack of cash in banks is not inspiring confidence that feature would have made the difference. Steward Bank should have gone for the market jugular. Meek business decisions are never great ones. Steward Bank can easily turn this into a revolutionary product.
- This isnt the first time Steward Bank has partnered to give something of a Bank account atached service, having given us account – serviced savings accounts in the Ecocash Save product. The only problem for me with that service and not with this one I hope is noone ever really got account details for the savings accounts. not even a prompt to link ecocash accounts (that would in reality be getting people to open actual accounts.) I guess what I’m saying is steward bank better give us account numbes this time. Admin work is always the difficult part with Zimbabwean businesses. Time to break the mold.
With the looming arrival of Bond Coins which could could prove useful if handled right and be a disasters if done the wrong way or if everyones paranoia destroys the demand/supply ratio for US dollars in the market, could introducing cards (plastic money) ease some of the panic? it will definitely be worth tracking.
It is great to see a local company whose business development department is doing something. Thanks for reading this and as always you tell me what you think of the whole thing via email or come debate with me on Twitter