“Banking is not some place you go to, it’s something you do,” said Calistus Chijoro, Head of Customer Channels at Stanbic Bank Botswana during the launch of the banks’ ‘Mobile Branch’ on Friday last week.
One can only imagine the opportunities that could have emerged had the banking sector as a whole adopted this mindset early on. Perhaps we could be talking a completely different story now, with the landscape of banking inclusive of segments of the population that were traditionally sidelined and disadvantaged. Though the banking sector is increasingly making strides to foster financial inclusion, the physical and financial limitations that the sector religiously pronounced as a hindrance to its ability to offer services to remote and disadvantaged communities have retarded progress in that regard.
The Stanbic Mobile Branch can be used as a fully operational branch offering cash deposits, cash withdrawals, cheque deposits and encashment, account enquiries, account opening, transfers and issuing of cards. It can also be used as a standalone ATM offering cash withdrawals, and instant money redemption. Without a fixed schedule of locations it will operate in, the Mobile Branch will move with the wave of crowd pulling activities that take place in the country.
The Mobile Branch is a step in the right direction that will greatly enhance financial inclusion. Banks have previously been accused of failing to absorb populations in remote areas; as they used the areas’ demographic and economic conditions to justify the lack of establishment of traditional brick and mortar branches to service remote communities. It was simply an accepted reality that there were certain places that banks could not go to.
According to Finscope Consumer Botswana 2014 survey results about 128 021 adults fell off the banking system between 2009 and 2014. This is the time in which the world was reeling from the 2008/09 economic meltdown, a period of dire crisis characterized by loss of jobs, business closures and significant reduction in business activities. Botswana did not escape the economic calamity, the result of which was sluggish economic growth. The survey does not however state how many adults were absorbed into the banking system for the same period, which makes it difficult to make a valid comparison. On the other hand it states that 50 percent of the population remains unbanked.
Futurist and Technology expert, Doug Vining asserts that businesses must demonstrate an appetite for success to move with the new technology age tide, citing that the risk posed by the rapid and radical changes present an environment that is volatile, uncertain and ambiguous. In recent times, the banking sector experienced the implications of this changing world. Amongst the things that banks now have to contend with is the stringent regulatory framework which to a certain degree eats into their profit margins. The sector’s profitability has dwindled to lows that when compared to the margins previously earned show how significantly sector was swept off. It seems that the future of the banking sector cannot simply be looked at in terms of profitability, as has been the case, but should also be considered in terms of the emergence of technologies that the sector can adopt to increase inclusiveness of different segments of the population into the banking system.
Stanbic Bank Botswana introduced the Mobile Branch not necessarily with the sole intent to service remote areas but to take advantage of masses of gathered crowds from time to time. Chijoro to that end told The Telegraph that the truck will be used to ‘test the market and see how it responds,” adding that should it respond, the bank will determine if there is need to set up other mobile branches. It is the response of this first in the market innovative service by Stanbic Bank Botswana that could potentially determine the direction that banking takes. The Mobile Branch can be used to earnestly service remote areas and reduce overcrowding inside brick and mortar branches.