Michael Jordaan, Bank Zero chair. Photo: Supplied
Michael Jordaan, Bank Zero chair. Photo: Supplied

SA's first digital bank, Bank Zero begins final countdown

By Dhivana Rajgopaul Time of article published Nov 13, 2019

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DURBAN - Bank Zero has now fully completed its core value proposition by going live with its debit card. 

Following this card go-live, rigorous health-checks such as simulated card attacks, card fraud detection and retailer readiness are currently underway. Thereafter the final countdown to starting public operations will begin.

To protect customers from this theft, Bank Zero has designed a new patented card which offers vital security and convenience. This patent will dramatically minimise the negative impact of card data theft and card skimming on Bank Zero customers.

Open source technology combined with a scientific design approach delivered this card in record time. Mastercard teams from South Africa, India and the USA were closely involved in validating and commissioning this card solution. IBM’s global expertise in encrypted card security was also tapped into. 

Michael Jordaan, Bank Zero chair said, "Globally, banks are big spenders on such projects, often spanning multiple years, but sweat capital along with an integrated business-and-tech design approach is our strategic advantage". 

"During the development of Bank Zero, no traditional banking systems were bought nor was any outsourcing done – these are expensive yet conventional solutions.  We wanted to create an exciting customer offering which required building our own systems," said Yatin Narsai the Chief Executive Bank Zero. 

He explained that, in just over a year, three large payment rails were created, each from a clean slate including: 

1. Direct integration into the South African Reserve Bank’s system, in order to become a settlement bank

2. Electronic payments (EFTs) and debit orders, establishing Bank Zero as a clearing bank

3. Issuing and processing of debit cards

"Zero pricing, along with our advanced card security, are just some of the ways in which we make our customers’ lives easier. We also bring special functionality around social connectedness, transparency, control, advanced payments and a focus on savings," said Yatin. 

He added, "Feature-rich banking must never force customers into paying exorbitant fees". 

The card go-live sets Bank Zero on the path to opening its digital doors to the public, and current internal beta testing continues to provide solid insights. 

Bank Zero now begins its final countdown towards starting public operations in the first half of 2020:

9. Add the final ‘shine’ to the Android and iOS Apps for both individuals and businesses

8. Put the patented card through its paces by actively using the first cards which recently arrived, sporting a fresh new design

7. Confirm that regulatory reporting is in order

6. Perform the annual disaster recovery test

5. Ensure that cards can be used internationally

4. Confirm security and performance testing to ensure Bank Zero’s systems can handle massive volumes

3. Implement a standby system, enabling maintenance without inconveniencing customers

2. Fine-tune and complete the build-out of the customer service model

1. Extend current beta testing

0. Start public operations

Bank Zero begins first trial runs with partners, IBM and Mastercard

Bank Zero, South Africa's first digital-only bank, announced that it had started its first trial runs in October 2018 with two strategic partners, multinational tech company IBM and financial services firm, Mastercard.

Bank Zero also integrated with the national payments systems of the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) as the government officially announced that the bank had been registered as a mutual bank effective 17 August 2018. 

The app-driven bank is the brainchild of tech entrepreneur Michael Jordaan and banking innovator Yatin Narsai – who together built First National Bank into the most innovative bank in the world under their decade-long leadership. Driven by smartphones and associated digital technologies, it's a disruptor in the traditional banking industry.

Bank Zero's scientific approach to building a bank uses precise laboratory-style testing and includes  Alpha testing, which validates the end-to-end live systems and processes of customer experience, security and regulatory processes, as well as confirming the fully automated regulatory reporting as required by the Sarb, among others.


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