FNB’s mobile account attempts to reach out to the unbanked

FNB has launched its first mobile bank account service aimed at reaching out to millions of gap consumers, to whom current conventional products do not cater.

Speaking at the launch event held in Parktown earlier in the week, FNB head of transaction products Gugu Zikhali said the product, which had been in the pipeline for two years, was in line with financial inclusion objectives. It reaches out to a market that still needs to be serviced according to its unique needs.

She said the account takes approximately three minutes to set up, can be set up via any phone, does not need the usual Fica paperwork required and has most of the capabilities of a conventional transactional account.

“EWallet eXtra will enable users to send or receive deposits from individuals and other banks, store funds for an unlimited period, pay accounts and also buy prepaid products like airtime, data and electricity. Users can also send to other recipients and withdraw at any FNB ATM or at tills across participating Spar stores, which also allow for over-the-counter purchases. The daily spend limit is R3 000, and R24 000 per month,” said Zikhali.

According to Zikhali, the account does not allow debit orders – a feature that rids the possibility of rogue debits – has regular eWallet and transfer capabilities, but does not qualify for a rewards system.

The bank said almost 8 million people have used eWallet services to date, and eWallet eXtra has its sights set on 11 million users.

Zikhali said those users are the gap that competitors have tried to reach and failed.

“Many have tried to close that gap, but failed. It was important for us to do our homework and to do that we had to look at the market in general, and we went deeper into our own transactional base,” she said.

The account does not have monthly fees, but transactional fees are charged, with a R14 000 limit.

Pieter Woodhatch, the CEO of FNB Easy, said traditional bank accounts which carry monthly fees and accept debit orders restrict clients to use cards and do not meet the unique needs of irregular income earners like seasonal workers.

“This is why we have integrated some eWallet functionality into the eWallet eXtra mobile bank account. After an in-depth assessment of eWallet user patterns, we realised that in excess of 1 million users have been effectively using it as a bank account despite the fact that the solution was designed as a remittance service,” explained Woodhatch.

“We believe that eWallet eXtra is the ideal solution to address this important gap and based on the analysis of our customer base and research on financial inclusion, we estimate the size of this market to be in excess of 11 million,” he added.

Woodhatch pointed out that digital adoption is the main solution to addressing the gaps in financial inclusion.

“At least 66% of regular eWallet users leverage digital platforms, and mobile devices remain critical in extending banking services to unbanked and underbanked populations. Digital gives customers full access to their money and puts them in control,” Woodhatch said.

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