Fresh crisis grips banks

Shakeman Mugari



A FRESH crisis gripped the banking sector this week following the re-denomination of local notes under currency reform measures announced by the central

bank on Monday, businessdigest has established.


The banks were this week battling to reconfigure their systems to switch to a new family of bearer cheques introduced by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono.


Sources said bankers had made representation to Gono over the ominous crisis which they say might precipitate a disintegration of the banking system amid fears that some banks might fail to meet the deadline to switch to the new currency.


Gono, however, rejected their appeals, insisting financial institutions had to embrace his new measures by August 21 or risk closure.


Gono’s new currency reforms to deal principally with speculators whom he said were hoarding large sums of bearer cheques “to take advantage of rent-seeking opportunities”.


As part of the measures, Gono has instructed the confiscation of cash in cases where people try to deposit amounts higher than his prescribed limits. People bringing a certain threshold of Zimbabwe dollars from outside the country also risk prosecution under exchange control measures.


Businessdigest understands that banking institutions could now fork out close to US$3 million, about $750 billion at the ruling official exchange rate and close to $1,8 trillion at the parallel market rate, to make their systems compliant with new currency denominations.


“It will cost a bank at least £100 000 (US$186 400) to reconfigure its system. That cost does not include travel and other expenses for the experts likely to be flown into the country to solve the problem,” a financial sector IT systems expert told businessdigest. “In fact,other banks are already working on ways of getting around the problem because they cannot afford the costs.”


Sources said the adjustments had to be made to the banking, accounting and human resources systems so that they could have the same unit of measurements to create functioning systems.


As it were, the sources said, banks had terminated connections allowing depositors to withdraw cash from automated teller machines (ATMs) at financial institutions apart from their own banks because of the disaster. Financial institutions were also trying to change balances in depositors’ accounts, loans and the interest payments to replace the unexpected change in currency denominations.


It is understood that banks were likely to be forced to bring it foreign companies who had authored the systems for an evaluation of the reconfigurations.


Many banks are said to have written for quotations from their software authors to the get the cost of the reconfiguration excise. businessdigest understands that at least two big banks had been informed that the reconfiguration process might take at least five weeks, meaning the problem should be solved long after August 21.