Towards the end of 2014, Steward Bank, the Econet Wireless owned financial institution, introduced the Agent banking model which allowed selected mobile money agents to offer some services in line with mainstream banking.
This model allows any Steward Bank account holder to get certain services from the mobile money agent, that would only be accessible from the traditional brick and mortar bank or through online financial services.
Not to be outdone, another institution, ZB Bank, is rolling out its own agent banking model. There have been adverts flighted by ZB Bank inviting interested individuals to come and register as a ZB Bank Agent.
Agents will offer the same services that we’ve seen from Steward Bank mobile money agents (deposits, withdrawals, balance inquiries etc) as well as e-Wallet services(ZB Bank’s online banking service) and interestingly, the sale of Powerplus prepaid electricity.
This last bit on prepaid electricity is likely going to be the biggest drawcard for most people or companies that end up signing up. With the service having been limited to certain ZESA/government affiliates and no co-opting of Econet/EcoCash or Telecash, this could increase the distribution network for prepaid electricity.
Prepaid electricity is already available from some retailers, so it wouldn’t be surprising if these distributors become the first ones to sign up as ZB Bank agents.
On the part of ZB, this is a great way to avoid the costs of branch setup and management (which have been affecting several local banks lately), enter more markets and offer financial services through informal ways. However, it doesn’t sway people away from mobile money as the main channel for the free flow of money in a largely informal economy.
in any case, this is ZB Bank accepting how the flow of funds and transactional value has moved from traditional banking halls. Perhaps some partnership with NetOne’s One Wallet is worth considering?