FBC taps into the mobile money business


Financial institution and investment holding company FBC Holdings Limited has launched a mobile merchant and bill payments option capping a year of solid market moving digital products release.

Since embarking on a digitisation program in 2018, the financial services group, has never been at its strongest than the current year. Earlier this year the bank went paperless, with automation of new accounts opening and several processes previously done manually or over the counter.

With the latest offering, onboarded customers can make payments without necessarily using their bank cards using digital avenues which include USSD Codes, Banking Apps and via a Whatsapp bot assistant. The product is essentially a mobile money service allowing for seamless mobile payments between customers and business as well as business to business, without the use of wallets.

“In simple terms, the new solution allows anyone with a bank account to make payments at churches (tithes), small to medium enterprises, vendors, tuck shops, barber shops, saloons, flea markets, among other merchants using a mobile device without the need to carry a physical ATM Card. Individual FBC Account and non-account holders are not required to register, as merchant and bill payment services are available on mobile banking platforms,” the company explained in a press release.

The product will give mobile money providers such as Ecocash, Onemoney and TeleCash , a run for their money. Typically, these other services require their subscribers to move money from their bank into a wallet which sits with the mobile money provider before moving it to their intended recipient.

A direct transfer from bank to merchants would typically reduce the costs and the effort required to complete the transaction. It waits to be seen what the costs structures of the service will be, but all else being equal costs of transacting would come down thus increasing the product’s edge to traditional providers of mobile money.

The company’s acting head of marketing, Roy Nyakunuwa said that the primary motivations for this move were to assist in the battle against COVID 19 while simultaneously making further strides in the digital direction.

“In the wake of the highly contagious coronavirus, handling banknotes, touching surfaces and not maintaining social distance amongst other factors increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission. Consequently, as a customer-obsessed and health conscious institution, we have seen it fit to offer a mobile payment platform as part of our digital transformation thrust and our quest to keep pace with global and local standards in the financial services sector.”

However, the underlying business and profit potential of the development cannot be overlooked.

In the year ended 29 February 2020, Mobile money and banking services done through Ecocash and Steward bank respectively made over ZWL$4 billion in revenue for Cassava Smartech, accounting for almost 90% of the group’s total revenue.

Although in the subsequent months profits were affected by some restrictions placed by government on mobile money operators to flag down inflation and the run-away exchange rate, the business remains profitable and under exploited.