By Oliver Kazunga
Listed commercial bank, Steward Bank says it has registered more than one million clients through its digital account opening platform launched in December 2018 with 536 000 microloans having been digitally disbursed.
In a statement accompanying the group’s financials for the six months ended August 31, 2019, the bank’s chairman Mr Bernard Chidzero said the platform has been instrumental in driving the institution’s mandate towards financial inclusion of Zimbabweans.
“In a bid to deliver our commitment to continuous value creation, financial inclusion and retention of our position as a market leader in innovation, the bank launched the *236# Digital Account Opening Platform in December 2018 which has changed the face of banking.
“Since launch, the bank has on-boarded more than one million customers through this platform, which has aided the bank in driving its mandate towards financially including every Zimbabwean,” he said.
“Furthermore, 536 000 microloans have been disbursed digitally through the Kashagi product.”
The bank highlighted its commitment to investing in digital systems to enhance customer experience and service delivery and targets to have fully implemented its Core Banking System and Infrastructure project in the third quarter of 2021.
Mr Chidzero said his organisation continues to use artificial intelligence to improve the efficiency and quality of service to their customers.
“As we continue to explore the use of this modern technology in our business, we are confident that we will emerge as the front runner in customer experience and service delivery in the financial services industry,” he said.
During the period under review, the bank’s historical net operating income rose by 121 percent to $118 million from $53,6 million reported in the prior year.
Profit before tax grew by 22 percent to $33,1 million.
“The favourable performance continues to be underpinned by resilience of our transactional banking model which leverages on the digital platforms that we have invested in.
“Our ability to serve the masses and to address their financial needs through our convenient, user-friendly and innovative platforms remains our core competency that has resulted in us delivering a 152 percent growth in non-funded income,” said Mr Chidzero.
During the course of the half-year period under review, Steward Bank’s account holders grew exponentially to 1,8 million with the addition of 350 000 others.
The bank also had its net interest income growing by 109 percent from the prior year on the back of increased “held-to-maturity” investments and interbank placements.
Gross interest-earning assets grew by 28 percent from prior year largely driven by the acquisition of Government instruments.
“During the course of the half-year, the Government gazetted Statutory Instrument 142 resulting in recognition of the RTGS dollar as a legal tender with a starting exchange rate of RTGS 2,5 to US$1.
“Consequently, the bank experienced foreign exchange losses of ZWL$21 million,” he said.
Mr Chidzero noted that the continued devaluation of local currency poses a risk to Steward Bank’s balance sheet.
“However, the bank is currently pursuing a variety of strategic initiatives that will safeguard the balance sheet and shareholder value against future adverse movements in exchange rates,” he said. The Chronicle