Our previous article on the Steward Bank Diaspora Banking Unit generated quite a response! If anything, the comments showed how Zimbabweans have been frustrated by our banking sector.
We cannot and will not downplay this disgruntlement because in one way or the other we have been harassed and excluded from our own money by those we trusted to grow it or at least keep it safe.
First, I must apologise for posting a faulty link which prevented those who wanted to sign up for a Diaspora Account from doing so. I fixed the link, you can go ahead and sign up here if you had not already.
Now to the actual bone of contention.
It is important to realise that the previous article was not on Steward Bank as a whole but rather their Diaspora Banking Unit.
I have observed most of the things our readers shared, like their experience with long queues at Steward Bank branches for example. It’s the sort of thing that we have all had to face in getting service from any bank.
On the other hand, I was also fortunate to experience Diaspora Banking convenience when my young brother went to the United States for University.
With the local bank he had at first it was difficult for him to withdraw large sums of money because of the US$50 withdrawal limit prevailing in Zimbabwe. When he opened the Steward Bank Diaspora Student Account those limits did not apply anymore. This experience is what prompted the article in the first place.
Other people raised concerns about Steward Bank not having enough ATMs. Obviously, this is entirely a Zimbabwean concern where ATM sharing across banks is sometimes restricted due to the cash shortages.
In the diaspora, Zimbabweans would not be looking for Steward Bank ATMs. They would be using any ATM that accepts MasterCard and paying using their Mastercard directly in the shops.
The reactions to the previous article gave me an aha moment: Steward Bank in Zimbabwe could be doing harm to its operation in the Diaspora! It’s as if you are dealing with two different banks. The powers that be must deal with this dichotomy as soon as possible.
Yes, to be fair Zimbabwe has been a trying market for banks lately and the general comments could be applied to almost any bank right now particularly banks serving the masses.
However, Steward Bank must still realise that the trying environment is not an acceptable excuse to their local customers. If they want to be the leaders of a new banking model this environment is the perfect testing ground of how innovative they really are.
They have already shown a pioneering spirit through their agency banking model. We need to see this spirit solve the generic problems highlighted by readers here.
Lately, I have noticed that Steward Bank real-time systems have been inconsistent and sluggish (to say the least). This is not acceptable especially considering that the product under review (Diaspora Banking) is largely dependent on online transactions.
In their drive to open more accounts than anyone else in Zimbabwe, they must not forget to invest in robust systems that will consistently deliver value to those same account holders.
Personally, I still maintain that the Diaspora Banking Product is a good and strong product that does not only solve problems for the Diasporan account holders but also provides a structured approach and platform for non-resident Zimbabweans to have a direct contribution to Zimbabwe’s economic growth. However, there is a need for a number of kinks to be ironed out.
So I will end by challenging the Steward Bank leadership to reach into the creative core that birthed agency banking and that birthed the Diaspora Banking Unit too and solve all the problems passionately expressed by our readers. It is not an excuse to point to the generic problems affecting banking in Zimbabwe. Clearly, our esteemed readers do not accept such.
I will also keep investigating and updating on the Diaspora Banking Unit. Let’s put it to the test and see if it will live up to its promise.
If you are living in the diaspora and want to give it a shot, click here.