Wesley Diphoko is founder of Kaya Labs and chairperson of the IEEE Open Data Industry Connections in South Africa.
CAPE TOWN - When Tyme Bank launched the first digital bank in South Africa, it did not just launch a bank. It launched an innovative banking business model, branchless banking,  that would have been impossible without technology. Branchless banking is a banking innovation that includes providing financial services to customers without going through the physical building of the bank but only utilizing information and communication technology.  This model will have a far-reaching impact on the unbanked and the economy in South Africa. 

Branchless banking for the people

The introduction of a branchless bank will be greatly appreciated by rural communities who currently have limited access to banks. Due to costs associated with establishing a branch, traditional banks avoid setting up branches where banking services are needed by most people. As a result of this challenge, rural communities have to travel long distances to access banking services. 

A branchless bank will enable most people who live in rural areas to access banking. The Tyme bank has been set up in such a way that it works with existing retail stores in rural areas such as Boxers where Tyme bank kiosks will be accessible. Cashiers will also serve as tellers to a certain extent as Tyme bank clients can deposit and withdraw funds from them.


Tyme Bank is just the first, more banks will follow starting with another bank in the pipeline, Xero Bank. Traditional banks are also applying innovative methods of reaching their clients via branchless means. ABSA bank recently introduced banking via WhatsApp, this is one way of enabling access to banking without visiting the branch.


Will Branchless model work?

South Africans have responded well to the branchless banking model.  It was recently reported that when Tyme Bank was still in its soft launch phase the bank was signing up 5,000 new customers each week.

Time will tell whether more South Africans will adopt this method of banking. There’s a potential that some bank clients will prefer banking with the help of a human being. Such a preference by bank clients will probably be the only saviour for traditional banks. It may also be an advantage for traditional banks and allow them to charge higher fees for human contact and service.


Wesley Diphoko is the founder and Editor in Chief of The Infonomist. He is the regular Tech commentator on SAfm HomeRun show on Fridays 

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