SA Postbank ready to be the country's 'future state bank'

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Post Office. (file)
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  • The Postbank says its retail infrastructure and branch network can lower government's debt burden to establish a new state bank.
  • Acting CEO Hannes van der Merwe said the bank's capability could be better leveraged to invest in socio-economic "developmental assets".
  • Deputy finance minister David Masondo is leading government's efforts to establish a new state bank.

The Postbank says it's ready to become South Africa's future state bank.

The bank said its deposit-taking capability and participation in the national payment system, was a powerful capability that existed within the state.

Postbank acting CEO Hannes van der Merwe said the bank's capability could be better leveraged to invest in socio-economic "developmental assets".

On Wednesday, Van der Merwe briefed the select committee on public enterprises and communication in a virtual sitting of the National Council of Provinces.

Van der Merwe said: 

"Utilisation of this deposit-taking capability coupled with its core retail banking infrastructure and reach, through the South African Post Office branch network and national payment system, to the benefit of wider development objectives of the future state bank, will lower the burden of further capital raising requirements in a fiscus already constrained by high debt levels to develop a state bank from scratch. Postbank's goal is to continue momentum on a gradual digitisation investment plan that will see Postbank broaden the current scale of operational activities, particularly in areas where the bank is better able to support government in its development agenda."

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Although the bank's revenue took a knock, Van der Merwe said they were expecting better results in the next financial year.

At July, its net profit after tax was R213 million.

Van der Merwe said the bank's year-to-date net interest income (NII) was 13% below the same period in the prior year, despite increased cash and investment positions.

"This is mainly due to the subdued interest rate environment. The NII for the year is projected to be lower than [the] 2020 financial year for the same reason. [Our] year-to-date non-interest-revenue is flat year-on-year; however, it is projected to be higher than the 2020 financial year achievement due to new initiatives," he said.

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Van der Merwe said a 3% increase in operating expenses was mainly driven by employee related expenditure.

"In line with the strategy to capacitate the bank with critical skills, the number of appointments led to an increase in employment related costs. Postbank paid tax for the first time as a separate company during the 2020 financial year. The 2021 first provisional tax is only due in September 2020," he said.

Deputy finance minister David Masondo, tasked with the establishment of a new state bank, said in February all the "quasi state banks" owned by government, including the Postbank and various provincial banks, would be consolidated to create a new state bank.

The new bank would help poor, rural people and small businesses to get access to finance, he added.

The Postbank waived fees chargeable to South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) beneficiaries in March 2020, resulting in a R9 million revenue loss.

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