Dear Zimbabwean banks, how about this for innovation!

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

A few days ago, Wednesday to be precise, at the insistence of a friend, I accepted to go open a new account at a local big bank. I have a number of accounts around that I don’t use anymore for obvious reasons, but this particular bank has a special eCommerce opportunity that the friend will help with. So go there I do, I get the forms, get told I’ll need $100 for the new account, and I proceed to fill in the forms with all my supporting documents in hand – passport photo, certified ID, Proof of residence.. the painful usual.

On submitting the form – after 30 minutes or so in the queue – I’m told I need a payslip or letter from my employer to verify that I earn something. I don’t have any such documents and want this account urgently so I tell them I’m not quite formally employed. See, it’s said about 80% or so in Zimbabwe don’t have a formal job – referred to as the unemployed to uncomplicate things – but they handle enough bits of money here and there to matter very much in this economy our banks trade in.

“You will have to fill in another form then” the customer desk agent suggests. If you have filled in 3 pages of bank account opening forms locally you probably understand how energy sapping the suggestion is. But being one to not give up easily, I complied, went through it, came back to the queue and waited again for my turn. Only to be told this time “we will only accept these papers, but we cannot guarantee you an account especially since you’re not formally employed.”

I’m shocked. Really shocked as I didn’t think it was this bad. So this time I decide to answer back “Ok, I’m holding a $100 bill in my hand, I have given you all my identification details, photo, proof of residence, my wife’s details, where she works & how much she earns, my brother’s details, where he works, and you still won’t give me an account?”

She responds: “Well, I’m not saying that you definitely won’t get one, just that you MAY not get it when they go over your application”. Ok, fine, maybe. “So when will I get a call?” I ask. “On Friday, and… we won’t call, you will have to come back here and check if your application’s approved” she says with a this-is-how-we-work straight face.

So there I was walking out of the bank one hour later, with no account, and only some hope that come Friday (today), and only if I make the trip to the bank, I may be lucky enough to be granted a bank account by these gods of money.

It’s not my first dissatisfactory experience at the hands of a bank, and it’s frustrating especially as most speak so loud about innovation. Frustrating that in this age of connectedness, I somehow still have to bear the cost of accessing the branch.

No, you’re not innovating you big bank! Innovation is this: Nigeria: GTBank Commences Instant Account Opening On Facebook. Maybe go there and ask how they are doing it!




  1. Raymond Swart

    You are so right, a simple thing like decent internet banking and credit card facilities are still a challenge an you now want the banks to make less money by becoming efficient. Shame on you…

  2. Arnold

    Just one of the reasons why ecocash has been successful. Our banks should learn a thing or 2 from our neighbouring countries.

  3. Vic Chido

    You are so right. The ind of service from the so called BIG banks in Zim is sometimes pathetic. I withdrew my application from one bank precisely because they wanted original application forms. I then opened one with FBC where I could at least submit Scanned Copies.

  4. Farai Sairai

    I think you should name and shame the bank. This is the service you got when you wanted to open an account and the big guys should see how painful and ridiculous it is to open an account. The maybe statement right there means that you do deserve an account nor should you bank with us. I would ditch them right away.

    No wonder why people use EcoCash. Everybody wants the simple banking services not to be treated like you are less important than them.

    By the way, FNBSA had this for almost over a year.

    But it involves you doing the basic thing first – opening an account with the bank before linking your Facebook profile to your account. I would say this is an added service AFTER you open your account. The opening account process may still have to be endured, albeit painfully!

  5. Angela Centra

    In Nigeria, they also have a very huge problem around identity, so you are who you say you are….and you can have several IDs to match your preferred identity

    This works very well in Nigeria, because they understand the bank is not a product, banking is the product, so even customers themselves when you get a bank account you dont walk around with a tangible thing that says, hey here is my bank, look at how nice and swanky it is, there is no tangible thing as a bank account, its the services that we as customers sign up for……

    Ecocash i can predict will be the largest bank in this market and continue to dominate the space, until banks realize that their product proposition is not in the accounts but in the services they provide

  6. Greg Kawere

    i don’t think logging into your bank account via Facebook is a good idea for banks especially considering how easy it is to hack into a Facebook account.

    To call Facebook social log in innovation is kinda stretching it.

    Innovation from Zimbabwean banks for me will include the following
    -mobile & internet banking as a standard facility
    -mobile app banking
    -prepaid credit cards
    -allow opening of bank accounts without the need for proof of residence & proof of income (this you highlighted in your article)
    -carry out a “open a bank account campaign” in rural and per-urban areas
    -every bank should have a zero interest bank account with the minimum baking features
    -allow bank deposits via atm
    -mobile money transfer solution that allows portable bank & withdrawals from without account using cell number as your account (i.e ewallet fnb)
    -fund entrepreneurs & have better loan options for entrepreneurs who have good business ideas but lack collateral

    1. Welly Mbedzi

      its also easy to hack into a internet banking account the solution is a strong password and don’t just click click click….

      1. Greg Kawere

        introducing Facebook social login for your bank account is placing an additional layer of insecurity on your hard earned cash.

        At least with Internet banking there is the one time password as additional security.

    2. Farai Sairai

      I think proof of residence is required as a person of no fixed abode is risky. Also proof of income is a must for me because for money laundering purposes. If something happens, where will you find them?

      Al the above services you ask the banks to give require huge capex. Changing/developing a system that can cater all that. How old is the current banking systems in these banks? The cost to replace the current systems will require a huge capital outlay, training, and am not sure they can do that now. They probably will have to band-aid the system each time they do it. I also hear that the banks this side spending an average of about 20-25% of their total operating costs each year on IT. Can the local banks do that?

      1. Greg Kawere

        to require a pay slip in a country with record unemployment is a at best the dumbest idea ever. i agree with the requirement of proof of residence.

        1. Farai Sairai

          I think it is more for admin/legal purposes/reasons than to really know if you are employed. Also, how would you deal with the sweet seller on the street corner when he needs an account?

          1. Greg Kawere

            there are literally a sizable million or so people in Zimbabwe who net at least usd500-usd1000 per month from buying and selling products on the streets. they don’t have payslips. if you are a bank and you exclude these people from having an account you are losing a sizable amount of potential revenue.

            1. Farai Sairai

              I think if you read Concern Shoko’s post on this article, it answers a lot. Majority of it is for legal reasons. Also, if he is buying and selling, then he must register a company and apply for a business account as he is now trading. Example, here in SA, they have this Stokvel system where some of them are registered and have bank accounts with for burial societies, lending groups, etc.As the main article says, its innovation that is lacking within the Zim banking system. Failure to acknowledge the informal sector.

              1. Greg Kawere

                my point is the very nature of the informal sector is that most don’t have a registered company. they also need to innovate on the account types, one that caters for the different clientele profiles

              2. Farai Sairai

                And I very much agree with you. And as we talk chat like this, Econet has just unveiled something along the lines you were suggesting. Could that be the answer to what the street guy can use? Let’s wait and see.

  7. Clint Skinner

    Walk into a CABS branch or agent and open a textacash account. One form which is a few lines long and you just need your ID only! Not a copy of it jus the physical thing and 2 mins later you can be signed up, have a card and be linked to your mobile account…

    1. Clint Skinner

      Oh, and there are no monthly charges or minimum fees! Free banking if you swipe on any CABS terminal country wide (includes the built in terminals at OK, Bon Marche, TM and PIck n Pay) The only fee you would pay is 1% on cash withdrawal but I use mine to pay almost anywhere and incur NO fees as a result. Even paying DSTV with it only costs $1 and the other banks are double that.. Loving my textacash account!

  8. banker007

    was the 100 the required to open account or just wat you had

    1. L.S.M. Kabweza


  9. Zibusiso Vusumuzi

    This is really a good innovation, at least people will do more from their PCs and phones than spend hours queuing and filling papers (in the Computer Age, really). It wil mean more deposits for them banks too and more online shopping for us..

  10. ed

    Recently I was in South Africa. I used an ABSA ATM and to my amazement one can apply for a R3000.00 loan at an ATM and get it approved immediately.

    Thats innovation

  11. Welly Mbedzi

    Until and only until when Zimbabwean banks come transparent on their so called bank charges will we have such innovation…

  12. cmzizi

    Truth is Zimbabwe still believes in some weird cr**p. There is no innovation in the financial sector….. Everything is so centralized. The sector does not believe in diffusion of services and decision making. Imagine one bank said they wanna check with Harare if my loan was approved!!!! NB: Im in Bulawayo.

  13. Zim Inov8

    wow i felt the pain you went through as if i was there with you, its pathetic. They act as if its a privilege to be banked by them when in fact they should be trying the best they can to get every last customer. PATHETIC

  14. Concern Shoko

    Having vast experience in the IT side of banking systems in Zimbabwe and most countries in Southern Africa (Globus/T24 and Flexcube), i can sadly tell you that:

    1). Zim banks are decades away from having their systems configured/upgraded to even think of some of the banking services we keep seeing in SA (and Namibia). Ever wondered why Android banking apps are still a mystrey??

    2). The cost of such technology can easily leave a very ugly scar on most Zim banks’ balance sheets. Find out server requirements and cost of Oracle 11g coupled with Flexcube 12.0 and Flexcube Direct Banking. It will blow your hair off.

    3). Most marketing people in Zim banks are drowning in old school marketing, which sadly, gives a blind eye on INNOVATION. Modern marketing is about LISTENING to what the client needs and at least TRYING to do something about it. Some solutions might just involve a simple process change example being the account opening process.

    4). Most people in the leadership and decision making positions in our banks dont appreciate new technology as a way to make clients happy and improve service delivery. They see it as a waste of money (Does the word CAPEX ring a bell?)

    By the way, my 9 year old account with one good bank was closed last month cause it was overdrawn by $8. No one bothered to call me or even email me about it. And they call themselves ACCOUNT MANAGERS. what a pity.

  15. Concern Shoko

    Just to manage your expectations guys, Requirement of proof of residence and proof of income is hear to stay. You can not run away from that as its controlled by Law and international banking practices. Research about Know Your Client (KYC), anti-money laundering (AML) and Anti Terrorism and similar best practices.
    The thing is to know the requirements before you queue for one hour in the bank. Its like taking a car to a fuel station and you dont know which fuel the car takes, only to bug the petrol attendant saying you should be allowed to put any fuel that is available. It doesnt work like that. Every industry has rules and regulation and you just have to adhere. Try to go open an account at FNB SA without proof of residence and see if you are successful.

    1. Langton

      If you read the article carefully the issue is not about proof of residence which you emphasized here is proof of income which our banks unbderstnad to mean a payslip!

      1. Concern Shoko

        Yes, that correct Langton. But remember proof of resi and proof of income always come hand in hand…

        1. Moyo

          Concern Shoko,you need to think outside the box, or risk being irrelevant.This is the technology era everything is moving and changing very fast but you are are still glued in the past. The issue is about innovative modern banking and problem solving not to rely on some primitive wayward old fashioned way of banking. Wake up and smell the coffee, see what EcoCashSave are doing,they have effectively rubbished all those requirements,they are clever & intelligent they are in business big time & that’s brilliant. Hassle free banking,that’s what clients want.

          1. Concern Shoko

            Didn’t know that stating facts and explaining what the Law dictates is called “primitive and old fashioned”.

            Before you attack me, may I kindly ask you to tell me one Bank under the sun that does not require proof of residence and proof of income to open an account. Just 1 bank from a country of your choice. Once you identify such a bank then we will talk nicely.

            And just for your info Ecocash and a bank account are 2 different things, miles apart. And should never be compared. if you know your banking the following things should come to your mind..

            1. No debit or credit interest

            2. Only VAT can be charged/collected, no withholding tax

            3. maximum balances and transaction limits are enforced on Ecocash, where as account is flexible.

            4. You cant withdraw Ecocash money from an ATM or link it to your VISA card. This should tell you a lot about Ecocash being a separate financial system.

            5. You cant transfer Ecocash $ to a foreign beneficiary (SWIFT)

            6. You cant buy forex from your Ecocash balance.

            7. Relaxed anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-client (KYC) rules on Ecocash.

            8. Ecocash does not contribute to your credit history at the bank. Neither does it show up in your customer position at your bank
            9. You cant borrow from Financial institutions against your ecocash balance.
            10. Many more.

            And by the way I dont dispute that ecocash is brilliant, i always use it with a smile. And that was not the point of this article.

  16. Mzaya

    The EcoCash Save account that was announced by EcoCash and Steward Bank today has effectively addressed this concern! I’ve opened my account and started saving!

  17. Steward Online Banking: Bank wants to be most internet friendly bank

    […] we mourn and complain all the time about banks not making full use of this amazing platform called the internet. Some […]

  18. What Econet can learn about being excluded by ZESA

    […] Econet and the banks has favoured Econet. Mostly because banks themselves have a nasty and real financial exclusion issues. But if we’re ok with Econet excluding the banks, maybe its ok for Econet to exclude third […]

  19. "Hello Inconvenience" is what these mobile banking apps are screaming – Techzim

    […] While all this is happening, banks time and again wonder why customers like me are an unhappy lot. Three years ago, after a painful experience attempting to open an account at a local bank, I wrote: […]

2023 © Techzim All rights reserved. Hosted By Cloud Unboxed