When we broke news of Steward’s *236# not so long ago we were excited- well I know I was. Now here was finally a way that would allow me and the other ordinary men and women on the streets to open a bank account from the comfort of our own homes without having to submit a stack load of filled forms to “the man” as is the norm when one needs an account with most banks.
The government should not be leaving people with the burden where they have to verify their details and address and bring proof of residence every time one is signing up for a new service. There should be a government portal that various service providers can look up these details including things like a credit score without having to resort to demanding a ridiculous amount of paperwork.
Once upon a time there was a lost card
I opened my original iSave Steward account eons ago when it was introduced and I rarely used it. The promise I got from the banking agent was that the account would not be closed due to inactivity but apparently that wasn’t true according to the help guy at the banking hall I talked to today. Here is where things get bizarre.
At some point my account was closed and yet I could still do Wallet to Bank Transfers and send money using ZIPIT the last time I checked although I couldn’t receive. I had stopped using my card because I somehow misplaced it. That or the giant rats that were resident at my former boarding place simply snatched it and stashed it into one of their nests. I don’t know how it was possible for me to use a closed account this way. That seems a little odd.
Anyway when I heard of *236# I was excited and even though I did not yet know that my original account had been closed I went ahead and signed up for an account and received the OTP that I was to use to activate my account. The promise of *236# is simple:
- You open an account using your Ecocash details which have already been verified. I mean Ecocash is literary the country’s currency.
- You receive a four digit OTP via SMS
- You use this OTP to activate a card you pick up from any agent in the road
That’s it no pain no hustle. No need for mountains of paperwork.
Except you have to see an agent
I followed all these steps and then went to see an agent. The agent part of the equation is a hard to avoid necessity, you need a physical card for some transactions. You have to pick the card in person but therein lies a slight weakness in the system but this is easily mitigated by the fact that you can pick the card from literary any agent and there are lost of these country wide.
However when I got to the agent I was under the impression that all I needed was for her to hand me one of the unlinked cards. I was wrong.Not only did she want to see my ID, she needed a copy of it. Given how this works or how it’s supposed to work anyway, I do not understand why an agent would require my ID. It is not like any of the cards are linked and the way the whole thing works is that I can link the card myself using an OTP. So there is really no need for that level of security.
Now for lack of a better word that seems a bit stupid and kind of defeats the whole reason for *236#. I mean I ended up running around looking for some photocopying place and that took a while. In this heat that makes people irritable hence perhaps the disapproving tone of this article.
My account number, the number of the now linked card and phone number were then written onto the copy of the ID. That essentially makes the ID copy in essence an application form of sorts in my opinion.
I am guessing this is some sort of commission thing on the part of the agent but that very act sort of undermines the purpose of *236# which is supposed to be a paperless and hastle free way for antisocial people like us who seek to avoid social intercourse to quickly get an account.
Agents should be allowed to help those who need help but this ID part must be scrapped otherwise there isn’t much time saved by the process. The only savings I can see are on the part of Steward. Now their agents no longer need to carry around portable swipe machines to activate the cards but the process has barely changed on the paper front.