Steward Bank opens flagship branch, unveils Smart ATMs integrated with EcoCash

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Steward Bank

The Steward Bank Smart ATM

Last night, Steward Bank, the financial services subsidiary of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, officially opened its flagship branch at Eastgate Mall in Harare.

Speakers at the event included the new Steward Bank CEO Lance Mabondiani and Japhet Aritho, the head of EcoCash. They both highlighted the focus of tapping into Econet’s tech and financial services strengths to enhance the customer experience for Steward and EcoCash customers.

The focus of the event though was the unveiling of the Smart ATMs. The ATMs, which were developed in partnership with EcoCash, effectively integrate ECoCash services into ordinary ATM functions.

What can the Smart ATM do?

From the Smart ATM, any EcoCash subscriber (it’s not for Steward bank clients only) can perform the cardless transaction of cashing out money from the wallet through the ATM itself. Steward Bank cardholders can also buy Econet airtime from the Smart ATM.

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Its Zimswitch and Mastercard enabled so another EcoCash product, the EcoCash MasterCard is compliant with the ATMs

It’s the same sort of mobile wallet-meets-ATM service that regional mobile operator MTN has introduced for its MTN Mobile Money in countries like Uganda.

How smart is Smart anyway?

This is a smart way to leverage on the relationship Steward Bank has with Econet and EcoCash. It was definitely worth executing as a value added service for Steward bank clients and EcoCash subscribers.

However, as far as smart ATM tech is concerned there is still a lot that could be done. The Steward Bank Smart ATM has managed to assume a pseudo mobile money agent role in all aspects except accepting deposits. That is the one aspect that one would expect from anything smart from an ATM.

According to Japhet Aritho and other Steward Bank executives, this is something that will be introduced in the short to medium term. This ATM service, together with the in-store online banking service is supposed to be the first of many steps towards a smarter experience.

The fact of the matter is ATM hardware and software rollout and maintenance is hardly cheap, and in an economy like ours where there aren’t a lot of people streaming to open bank accounts, let alone use ATMs, the business case for a huge investment into ATMs is hard to justify. This probably explains why the ATMs didn’t look as modern as one would expect from the smart tag.

In any case, Steward Bank has managed to score points for added integration with mobile money. After introducing Agent banking last year, this adds to the integration of the bank with EcoCash which makes more than just ordinary business sense in Zimbabwean financial services.



24 Comments

  1. fourwallsinaroom says:

    Finally Steward Bank ATM’s now work with Ecocash cards, in the past I have had to use CBZ and FBC for withdrawals on the Ecocash Debit Card. Now if only they can buy a generator so that when there is no power (last time it was a sunday during eastgate maintenance) we can use the atm’s.
    Secondly, fix the ZUVA atm, that one is usually out of order.
    Now provide us with the charges for ecocash cashouts using your atm’s i am sure you have tacked on a convenience fee!

    A little slow by the way, Kingdom had cardless withdrawals before its demise along with mastercard more than two years ago!

    1. ic0n1c says:

      The usual Ecocash charges still apply when u withdraw/cash out from the smart ATMs

  2. joey k says:

    These ATMs really should accept deposits that go straight into your ecocash wallet. come on Econet. then one could deposit cash even at 3am.

  3. Anonymous says:

    you need to do something abt your post office outlets.

    stonegae doesn’t even best describe it

    1. TheKing says:

      Hahaha

    2. Ini says:

      Are you Zimbabwean?

      1. Anonymous says:

        kkkkkkk

        1. Anonymous says:

          what does nationality have anything to do with it?????

  4. Ini says:

    Nigel Nigel Nigel Nigel, am no expert but your story has a lot of holes or need I say lacks depth in research.
    1. Charges – How much is the service going to charge? Did you even bother to check? I did my lil research and found out that the charge for normal cash out applies.
    2. Investment on ATMs,… people don’t use them blah blah – i see this from a different angle, remove the agent, add the ATM charges then charges may go down because no more commissions for agents (i.e if Econet does the reasonable thing here), with more transactions on ATMs there maintainence costs can be covered esp if other banks come on board cash and in on the ATM cash out commission.
    3. How smart is smart? – How many banks in Zim have the cardless service?

    1. fourwallsinaroom says:

      Kingdom when they have cash an Barclays have card less transactions

      1. Ini says:

        Exactly my point! A few banks. So this is steps in the right direction. I remember some statements on this site complaining about 4G/LTE and 5G expansion efforts by MNOs suggesting they forget abt that and perfect 3G/2G which Canada and USA are clearing with 2015-2016 deadline. Sometimes it takes little strides to get there and catch up (or never) with the others. …….my long and winding point being : “commend the little they have done” its better than none.

    2. Nigel Gambanga says:

      Nigel Nigel Nigel Nigel, am no expert but your story has a lot of holes or need I say lacks depth in research.
      1. Charges – How much is the service going to charge? Did you even bother to check? I did my lil research and found out that the charge for normal cash out applies.

      Thanks for pointing out that omission. I’m sure your clarification on that point is appreciated by everyone who read the article. As part of the Econet employ you should have noticed our coverage of these details (research and all) yesterday when Steward Bank and Econet were retweeting our coverage of these details.

      2. Investment on ATMs,… people don’t use them blah blah – i see this from a different angle, remove the agent, add the ATM charges then charges may go down because no more commissions for agents (i.e if Econet does the reasonable thing here), with more transactions on ATMs there maintainence costs can be covered esp if other banks come on board cash and in on the ATM cash out commission.

      I appreciate your perspective. I still maintain that this service isn’t billed to upset the mobile money agent arrangement, whichever way the numbers are tinkered with. It is a great value added service but cannot handle the demands of micro-fund transactions that mobile money is designed for. Besides, At 36 ATMs for Steward Bank and the limited ATM total for all the banks, ATM tech, however “smart” hardly qualifies as the one form of monetary delivery that can be scaled to usurp the business case of money agents. But then again, neither of us are experts here so we’ll see how those in the know roll the dice on the man versus money machine debate.

      3. How smart is smart? – How many banks in Zim have the cardless service?

      This has been answered by other readers but i thought I’d add my thoughts. Without looking at what other financial service providers across the border have been working on since 1960, Barclays and Afrasia (then called Kingdom Bank) have given Zimbabweans a taste of smart ATM tech. Everyone now knows that modern ATM tech has capabilities for deposits and cardless service. A lot more is expected from Steward Bank especially since it has loudly proclaimed itself as a tech-centric bank. This was a chance to show and prove and seeing that there is no E for effort in business, I personally expected more.

  5. Ruwoko says:

    Dear Nigel, The quality of your reporting is very poor. I advise you guys to employ trained journalists, or at least learn how to write and be analytical. Reading through the stories on your website, one cannot ignore the poor quality of your work. Why don’t you learn from other Tech ports like ITWeb in South Africa

    1. Ini says:

      Thank you Ruwoko. I hope these guys are listening otherwise they end up like H*r**d.

      1. Nigel Gambanga says:

        @Ini care to share the story of H*r**d?

    2. fourwallsinaroom says:

      I am not sure what everyone is fussing about @Ini and Ruwoko. If you have issues with the writing, dont read! Alternatively offer up some constructive criticism. Given that we have gotten this information prior to econet posting it on its homepage, its nice to know whats going and what to look forward to. I am sure a complete breakdown will follow in due course.

    3. Nigel Gambanga says:

      @Ruwoko Thanks for the feedback. I need to point out however that at Techzim we are not journalists and do not work within the parameters of traditional journalism. I would love to hear what you think would help us improve our writing style. the same applies to the analytical handle you expect from us.
      While we appreciate the work done by other tech publications, we do not, in any way, aspire to follow the delivery of ITWeb or any other tech ports.

      1. LoveJ says:

        haha. nice on Nigel… no need to follow other peeps like ITWEB. I personally love this blog. you guys seem to always have it first hand, coz you actually are there at these events (I’ve met the team at a few events) besides, everyone is allowed to not read what they dont like… otherwise, great work guys at techzim… 🙂

      2. Nuendo says:

        This kind of mentality of saying we don’t do this we don’t that yet by writing a post provides a notion that somehow this blog is written by journalists is pathetic just get good writers or learn to be have sound analysis

    4. Someone who knows says:

      TechZim have their own identity. If you want a copy-cat of ITWeb, kindly start one and run it yourself.

    5. Ruwoko, unfortunately, you had to sound angry before conveying your thoughts…and we all feel attacked; I merely read and understood (though indeed I could also get some info from what you specified, I definitely did not feel time totally wasted).

      Whilst I believe we can help one another positively, this did not appear so…and it does not allow continued improvement on the part of the writer, since his effort (NOTE: nomatter its insignificance as may be apparent to you), will not be embellished by your criticism, but attacked.

      How about to all, support EVERY struggling Zimbabwean (Not because they support you back); probably techzim might be strifling your initiative and doesn’t appear to be a good party right now…BUT behind all these brands and stuff: THERE IS A HUMAN BEING, HE STILL FEELS. Be careful what you say, and just be kind.

  6. Abbah Dhliwayo says:

    i totally disagree that is is a smart anything. This is simply a cardless enabled ATM.
    “From the Smart ATM, any EcoCash subscriber (it’s not for Steward bank clients only) can perform the cardless transaction of cashing out money from the wallet through the ATM itself.”
    Im sorry to say but you need to understand that every zimbabwean on ecocash is an account holder at steward bank becaused the ecocash wallet in its self is an account so it is indeed for steward bank clients only.
    Steward is just using jargon to try and sound as if they have introduced new technology but the now defunct Kingdom bank had this functionality way way back.
    Its not the ATM that perfoms these cardless but the solution driving the ATM so any ATM in zimbabwe with a card management system with the capability of a cardless transaction can do this little stuff

    1. fourwallsinaroom says:

      In Zimbabwe less than 5% of the population uses cheques – so no need for that smart function to be enabled.

      Steward has offered an enhanced withdrawal method by allowing cash outs via the atm. (cardless)

      FBC has been allowing withdrawals as small as $5 for as long as I can remember. I assume the lack of $1 notes that will work in an ATM is the reason there is no option for such a low denomination

      Large screens more intuitive – covered!

      Video conferencing – not available but for free you can call 0808 8888 and get help or simply walk three steps during banking hours and get help from the Ecocash desk at Eastgate Steward Bank.

      Finally to clarify, an ecocash customer is not a steward bank account holder unless they open an allsave account. Ecocash is a mobile wallet which happens to fall under Econet Services and not Steward Bank! Two different subsidiaries. If Econet Services decides to keep your ecocash balance in Steward bank thats their business. Ecocash was there before Steward Bank and was never tied to TN Bank! Where do you think that money was going in that case? I suggest you go to the Econet global site and read last years annual report.

      That said See below:
      A first in Canada, TD’s Smart ATMs offer an innovative approach to how traditional ATMs operate. They feature a more intuitive user interface, with larger font and touch screens for ease of use, and the option to get on-site help from branch staff. TD’s Smart ATMs also offer enhanced withdrawal and deposit functionality, including the ability to choose bills in various denominations and deposit cheques using image-enabled technology.

      Bank of America’s (NYSE:BAC) new Teller Assist will bring live video conferencing to its ATMs, allowing customers to speak with tellers beyond normal business hours and conduct advanced transactions that would normally not be possible from an ATM. On weekdays, tellers will be available from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., significantly extending Bank of America’s typical banking hours. On weekends, they’ll run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Two new conveniences that come with the new machines are the ability to cash checks for their exact value, and the ability to take out cash in $1 increments, as opposed to denominations of $20. Bank of America also plans to roll out support for cash back with check deposits, but that will come later.

    2. collen says:

      check your definition of new technology

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