Standard, Absa, most expensive banks: Solidarity

Standard Bank and Absa are the most expensive banks for individual accounts in the country, while Capitec and First National Bank are the cheapest, according to a report by trade union Solidarity today.

“Of the 10 cheapest accounts on a basic user profile, Absa claimed 10th place, but Standard Bank did not even make the top 10,” the report indicated.

The report compared the bank charges of various personal accounts at the four commercial banks – Absa, Standard Bank, First National Bank and Nedbank – as well as those at Capitec, with each other.

“The investigation focused on the core of transactional accounts in order to make comparisons as fair as possible,” the organisation’s general secretary Flip Buys told journalists at the launch of the report in Pretoria.

The report, which the union said was not financial advice but rather a tool to empower people, suggested that if a person wants a transmission account without a linked credit card and overdraft facility, Capitec was the best option as it comes out on top in all user profiles.

FNB’s similar product, the smart account, generally comes second in this category.

Solidarity reiterates findings by Finweek last week, which found that FNB was cheapest, followed by Nedbank, Absa and Standard Bank. However, Capitec was not included in that report.

Buys denied this was a vendetta against Absa with whom they have recently clashed after the bank raised questions about transformation in rugby.

A controversial SMS surfaced in September in which Absa deputy chief executive Louis von Zeuner apparently requested that SA Rugby Union (Saru) president Oregan Hoskins look into the number of black players in rugby.

As a result, Solidarity threatened to take R18?billion worth of business away from Absa – which is the biggest sponsor of Saru – if it can’t show that it won’t interfere politically in sport.

Buys said they support the advancement of black people in rugby but were against big sponsors using financial muscle to interfere in the operational decision of rugby while it does not interfere in decisions of other sports.

The union would still decide whether to change its bank from Absa, but said this was simply related to banking costs.

The union has also recently taken issue with Standard Bank over the looming mass retrenchment of staff. It was currently in talks with Capitec management with regards to broadening banking facilities.

“We have issues with all banks, not only Absa. The fact is, banking fees in this country are too high... Absa doesn’t deserve the loyalty of other Afrikaner clients anymore,” said Buys.

“No bank or business can expect people to be taken for granted. Absa must compete for that loyalty and deserve it like any other bank.”

According to the Solidarity Movement (which includes Solidarity, lobby group AfriForum and charitable organisation Helping Hand) about 65% of its members have Absa accounts.

The bank was historically linked with the organisations because of Volkskas Bank whose clients became part of Absa Bank during a massive amalgamation.

Deputy secretary general of Solidarity, Dirk Hermann, said he hoped their report would enable people to make more informed choices about banking.

“People must make decisions not only on historic loyalty but on cost and services. We have no issue with any bank, but have an issue about the banking costs,” emphasised Hermann.

Although maintaining this was not a campaign against Absa, the union admitted that the rugby debate set off the bank charges investigation.

“This is an objective campaign. It’s a campaign for opening up the banking market. For the first time there’s information and people can make their own decision,” said Hermann.

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