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Should a Zimbabwean in the diaspora open a bank account in Zimbabwe? What are the benefits of holding an account in Zimbabwe when you work and live outside the country? What are the hoops you have to go through to open and hold such an account?
I will try to answer these and related questions by analysing the Steward Bank Diaspora Banking Unit.
Why Steward Bank? The reasons are straightforward and simple, really.
1.It’s Steward Bank’s PRIORITY
Firstly, Steward Bank has made diaspora banking a priority. It is the most aggressive local bank targeting Zimbabweans outside our borders. It currently has more than 8,000 diaspora accounts and this client base is expected to keep increasing.
We have seen it holding, sponsoring or outright crashing numerous events in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, the United Kingdom and even in the United States!
2.Understanding the need
Another reason is that the founder of their parent organization lives in the diaspora and their CEO lived in the diaspora for more than 10 years. This could explain why the Diaspora Banking Unit was established almost immediately after Econet acquired the bank in 2013.
It’s a classic case of passion perhaps or maybe Strive Masiyiwa (Econet Executive Chair) and Lance Mambondiani (Steward Bank CEO) being ‘diasporans’ themselves understand the need for the service. Coincidentally (or maybe not), one of the key movers in the Diaspora Banking Unit lived in Namibia for almost 10 years!
3.Investing in the Right Relationship
The chief reason I can think of for anyone to operate a Zimbabwean account from outside is to invest in a good relationship with the bank- strictly talking about diasporans who dream of ever coming back to Zimbabwe here.
I am sure most of us have had the nasty experience of needing to borrow from a bank but realising we belong to no single bank database. The banker-customer relationship is a two-way trust highway and it is a no brainer that you need to cultivate it.
This relationship also affects your access to other third party forms of finance and credit. Everyone who is holding something you need seems to be asking for your six-month bank statement these days.
4.The Remittances Factor
An obvious advantage in having a Zimbabwean account whilst you live across the world is to do with remittances. You obviously want to send money home for various reasons.
But wait, aren’t there fully committed remittance service providers out there? The difference between those other guys and a bank is that a bank can execute specific orders through stop orders and other instruments which protect you from complicating your relationship with uncles and aunts over money that goes missing.
It is a tough economy in Zimbabwe, sometimes your brother in law cannot help it but borrow from the little amount you sent to build your home or send your daughter to school.
Ok, yes to remittances but what if someone in Zimbabwe owes you money and you are in China? What if you are renting out your Bulawayo home because you live in Pretoria? What if you are a student in Cyprus and you need mummy in Mutare to bail you out with US$100?
Surely you need people to be able to send you money. Well, in Zimbabwe it is not very easy to send money outside the country particularly now that we have serious cash shortages and Nostro complications.
Enter Steward Bank – those people who owe you (Yes if you are a student in Cyprus, mummy owes you) can simply deposit your precious money into your Diaspora Account and it will be kept safe for you or you can access it using Mastercard or some of their partnerships with bankers in your country of residence.
How about the quality of service? It must be obvious that the further one is from the provider of a service the more the quality of that service deteriorates. In this information age, however, this is no longer a true assumption.
People are visiting the bank a lot less frequently because of mobile and internet banking hence the quality of service I receive from my home in Chitungwiza is the same with that received by my aunt at her business in Mbare which is the same as the service you receive from your high-rise in New York City.
But hey, if my aunt wants personal contact with her bank she can easily do so, how about you in your high rise? Steward Bank has the innovative agency banking model for you to thank. Their Diaspora Banking Unit has more than 100 agents across the globe.
These are fellow Zimbabweans who understand your fears and apprehensions, they receive regular training and updates about say: bond notes! This model allows the bank to maintain personal relationships with its client just as they would with a regular branch.
6.Family ties with EcoCash
The biggest distinct Steward Bank advantage is its relationship with EcoCash. This allows someone in Texas to directly send money to their grandmother in Tsholotsho without going through that dubious cousin in Harare.
Steward Bank Diaspora Unit has a broad spectrum of tech-based transaction solutions on the books. This will give Zimbabweans in the diaspora more control over their financial transactions back home.
They also have solid partnerships with WorldRemit, Western Union, MoneyGram and Cassava which gives our foreign based cousins great flexibility when sending us money!
Right now the Steward Bank app allows you to pay ZESA and other services. Which means there is no incentive for the house sitter to lie about electricity being switched off because one will simply buy a ZESA token from Johannesburg without sending the sitter cash directly.
Types of Diaspora Accounts
So what kind of accounts can one hold in Zimbabwe if they are residing elsewhere? Steward Bank is permitting diasporans to open Current Accounts with a minimum deposit of USD 20.00.
All that’s required is for the client to provide proof of residence and a valid Zimbabwean ID (passport, National ID or Driver’s Licence). Holders of this account will apparently have priority consideration for mortgages if ever these become available.
Diasporans can also open Savings Accounts which have zero service charges. Student Accounts can be opened upon presentation of an offer letter from a university outside Zimbabwe and these have a minimum balance of only US$10.
There’s also the Diaspora Lite Account which is an amazing product suited to diasporans who cannot produce proof of residence. They only need to have a valid Zimbabwean ID (passport, national ID or driver’s license) to open this account. It is great that Steward Bank has included the non-regularised Zimbabwean ‘internationals’ with this product although the monthly transaction limit on this account is US$500.
Finally, what are the hoops our dear internationals have to go through to open accounts? Well, readers of Techzim can follow the link below and we’ll make sure Steward Bank opens accounts for them.
Are you in the diaspora and you need a Zimbabwean bank account? Click on the link below.
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