Two days ago, NMB Bank, a local retail financial institution was the victim of a message that circulated on WhatsApp advising its depositors to empty their accounts as a response to fears that the was bank under the threat of curatorship.
As expected, NMB Bank, in communications with its clients, dismissed the message as a hoax and in a statement issued by the bank, its CEO, Benefit Washaya also denied the claims that the institution wasn’t on a sound financial footing.
Now, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has also issued a statement confirming that NMB Bank is financially safe and sound with no threats to its liquidity.
We have learnt with concern that there is a message being maliciously circulated on social media advising NMB account holders to withdraw their money from the bank and alleging that the bank is faced with the threat of liquidation.
The Reserve Bank wishes to reassure the public that NMB Bank is not facing any liquidity challenges and there is no threat of curatorship or liquidation as alleged.
Members of the public are therefore advised to ignore any misleading statements from unauthorised and uninformed persons on the status of banking institutions or the banking sector.
The Reserve Bank is the sole superintendent of the banking sector in Zimbabwe, and any information on the condition of banks, other than that published by the banking institution itself, should come from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
In order to keep themselves informed on the status of the banking sector, members of the public are advised to access reports published by the Reserve Bank on a quarterly basis or phone the Reserve Bank for information.
The endorsement from the RBZ ought to go a long way in reassuring some of NMB Bank’s depositors, but even with a regulator led assurances, NMB Bank and the rest of the sector has likely felt the impact of the WhatsApp message, especially since some NMB Bank depositors considered withdrawing their money.
The whole situation paints a clear picture of how quickly social media can be used to communicate the wrong information and send the wrong signals about a brand, company and been an industry.
Zimbabwe’s financial system has witnessed the collapse of several financial institutions and any hint of the same thing happening was a prime case for creating a viral message.
In an environment where social media and instant messaging are the main channels for spreading information companies and brands should craft a sound crisis management plan geared towards handling social media miscommunication.
An industry authority’s words two days later might be the formal way to separate fact from fiction, but when it comes to social media, if it doesn’t immediately stem the tide of a false viral message, it will probably come a WhatsApp text or Facebook post too late.