In a bid to cheapen the cost of banking and make access to money easier, the listed bank First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB) has introduced eWallet send money service to the market.
The new product, which was successfully launched in South Africa in November 2009 where FNB, a division of or First Rand Bank, operates transactions amounting to over R1 million per day.
Lorato Boakgomo-Ntakhwana, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer, admitted that a majority of Botswana population is unbanked and said the service will try and bridge that gap while trying to move away from the traditional over the counter transactions.
“We at FNB believe that it is a great step forward for convenience. Making efficient use of technology is a key priority of FNB,” said a bullish Boakgomo-Ntakhwana.
“The eWallet service offers a powerful proposition for our existing customers. We are shifting what is traditionally an over-the-counter transaction to an instantaneous experience that can be performed literally anywhere and at any time,” she added.
The service can transfer money to anyone who has a mobile phone. The receiver does not need to have a bank account or bank card to access the money sent to them, but can withdraw money from FNB ATM machines around the country.
It creates a virtual bank account with a pin number that expires after 30 minutes which means creating a new one for another transaction to help in combating fraud. The virtual account is not a real bank account, but one that is created through the eWallet.
However, the product, which uses the service of the 3 mobile phone networks, namely Mascom, Orange and beMOBILE, a subsidiary of BTC, comes at a time when there are concerns of network jams during peak and festive season.
FNBB promised that it has talked to the mobile service providers and urged them to increase capacity.
“We are cognisant of the fact that we are reliant on service providers. They have assured us that they will improve the capacity,” added Yolisa Phillips-Lejowa, the bank’s Segment Head of Public Sector.
Equally, there are concerns that the bank’s ATM footprint does not cover areas where the majority of the unbanked and underbanked people reside although they might already be using mobile phones.
“Our plan is to increase ATM coverage. That is another critical strategy for FNB,” Boakgomo- Ntakhwana revealed.
Currently, the bank has 106 machines around the country and the plan is to increase that to 113 before the end of the year.
This may include the mini ATM programme, of which the bank has partnered with Choppies to use the retailer’s footprint across the country.
The minimum one can send is P20 while the maximum is P1000 for a day. For the receiver to get the money from the bank’s ATM, he needs to have airtime because accessing the funds is like calling from the mobile service provider.
Therefore, if the receivers do not have the airtime, they have to purchase the airtime from the three participating mobile phone operators through the mobile phone. This is how the phone companies benefit because the money goes straight to the companies.
FNB said the service will reduce the cost of transacting money from the bank as it is free of any charge as is the case in South Africa.
The service also comes at a time when it has been established that people are still reliant on sending money through public transporters, friends or family using them as intermediaries between the sender and the recipient.
This has proved to be costly and unreliable while also slow and it also involves the likelihood of the recipient misusing the cash, but it is hoped that with the eWallet, receivers can withdraw their money at different times.
The new service is a challenge to the market, where older banks are slow to embrace technology. It is only recently that FNB competitors started talking about internet and mobile banking.