SARB receives Postbank application as ANC piles on pressure

Cape Town – The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has confirmed receiving a submission from Postbank for a banking licence as the African National Congress (ANC) puts pressure on government to speed up the process.

A need for faster financial sector transformation was tabled at the ANC policy conference this week, Nomura economist Peter Montalto told investors in a note on Wednesday. He said “there is more pressure now on setting up a state bank, faster”.

The ANC reportedly wants government to push through the state bank within six months.

SARB deputy governor and registrar of banks Kuben Naidoo confirmed that they have received the Postbank application. “Postbank have submitted an application for a banking licence,” he told Fin24 on Wednesday.

“We are in the process of evaluating this application,” he said. “There may be legislative amendments required to enable the licensing thereof. We are engaging with the Treasury on this issue.”

Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele told Parliament in May that the corporatisation of the Postbank is a key priority for the year.

Delivering his budget vote on May 24, Cwele said the corporatisation and full licensing of the Postbank is on track “as part of government effort to ensure financial inclusion in the underserved market”.

In July 2016, the South African Post Office (SAPO) obtained approval to establish a bank from the regulator. In March 2017, the first Postbank board was appointed after a rigorous fit and proper assessment, said Cwele.

In April 2017, the South African Postbank company was registered and incorporated with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).

“Most of IT capabilities have already been implemented,” said Cwele. “Key appointments in internal audit, regulatory and risk management positions have been made.

“Now, our efforts are concentrated in resolving the structure of the bank controlling company as well as the resolution of the legislative conflicts around the definition of a public company by aligning the Banks Act to the Companies Act.

“It is important to note that despite the challenges in SAPO, the Postbank division is well cushioned, managed and profitable, with its capital adequacy requirements in excess by R1.4bn in the last financial year.

“In April 2016, SAPO was authorised to increase its long term borrowing to R3.7bn in the domestic markets.

“This enabled SAPO to settle past debt, which was crippling its operations. The rest is being spent on revenue generation measures of the Strategic Turnaround Plan.

“SAPO is ready to assist (South African Social Security Agency) Sassa to take over the payment of social grants as directed by the court.”

SAPO CEO Mark Barnes told News24 in March that Postbank could manage the distribution of Sassa grants at a higher competence level and likely at a reduced cost.  

“Postbank is part of the national payment system, approved by MasterCard and Visa,” he said.

He said it would take five to seven weeks to open all the accounts. "We’ve sat down and worked out when we could have all the cards reproduced, some of them embed with biometrics,” Barnes added.

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