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JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s two newest banks - Bank Zero and Discovery Bank - yesterday said they were on course to launch their digital-driven propositions in the second half of the year.

Bank Zero, which is chaired by former FNB chief executive Michael Jordan, said it was ready to launch as it had begun processing payments and debit orders efficiently and securely, as well as facilitating purchases of prepaid items such as data, airtime and electricity.

Chief executive Yatin Narsai said the bank would provide businesses with a higher degree of protection.

“In bank-speak, Bank Zero is now a ‘clearing bank’ in addition to being a ‘settlement bank’.

"This is remarkably fast progress, considering Bank Zero announced just five months ago that it had received a banking licence and has integrated directly into the systems of the South African Reserve Bank,” Narsai said.

The app-driven bank was registered as a mutual bank in September.

Business magnate Patrice Motsepe’s digital bank TymeBank went live last month and has set its sights on capturing the majority share of the unbanked population and small businesses.

Discovery Bank chief executive Barry Hore said the bank had entered a new phase of a carefully managed and gradual process of on-boarding existing DiscoveryCard clients.

“This phased migration process will transition Discovery Bank card clients to the full-service banking platform, marking the start of Discovery Bank operations to the public.

Over the next four months, this process will culminate with opening full access to the bank’s products to a broader customer base,” Hore said.

The entry of tech-savvy banks has forced the hand of South Africa’s big banks to adapt their operating models to meet changing consumer behaviour.

Last month Standard Bank said it would cull more than 1000 jobs and close nearly 100 branches across the country as a result of a shift in customer behaviour that has seen people moving away from traditional branch visits.

South African Customer Satisfaction Index founder Professor Adré Schreuder said 2019 promises to be a year of intense rivalry.

“As the South African banking sector heads into an environment of intense competition and rapidly increasing customer expectations, banks will need to thoroughly interrogate the drivers behind their performance, or lack thereof, in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty,” Schreuder said.