OK Zim to offer financial services

RETAIL giant OK Zimbabwe will soon be offering diversified financial services to shoppers as part of its strategy to broaden its revenue opportunities, informed sources have revealed.

Report by Clive Mphambela

Sources interviewed by businessdigest would not add details, citing confidentiality issues relating to Zimbabwe Stock Exchange disclosure requirements. However, they pointed to media advertisements inviting job applications from qualified financial services personnel, which they said signalled the retailer’s intentions to enter the financial services market.

OK reportedly wants to offer financial services as a means of value-addition to its product line. The oldest local supermarket chain wants to improve its customer experience through a wider product and service offering, the sources said.

The move is seen by banking analysts and financial experts as long overdue. Chartered financial analyst and MMC Capital Head of Research, Itayi Chirume, said he had found it interesting to notice OK Zimbabwe had been scouting for financial services personnel.

“The fact that they are looking at building human capacity to deliver financial services means they are seeing long-term value in the offering,” Chirume said.

Well-placed sources at OK Zimbabwe, however, revealed the business model would be different from “traditional in-store banking models.”

“They are not going into the traditional in-store banking at this stage. However, they are going into the broader financial products provision in order to offer customers a wider range of services as they go about their shopping, i.e. promoting one-stop-shopping,” one source said.  OK would be in partnership with many banks so that it would offer its services to customers on several platforms.

Of late OK has begun offering a wide range of insurance products which are underwritten by major insurance concern Zimnat. The retailer has also launched a shopping card, which, however is not yet widely issued.

OK Zimbabwe’s interest in financial services is not new. The retailer has in the past offered various banking services in partnership with Century Bank, which bank folded and was put  under curatorship before being taken over by CFX Financial Services. CFX later also ran into problems before being absorbed by the troubled Interfin Banking Corporation.

The introduction of in-store banking facilities underwritten by different banks across several OK and Bon Marche Stores is expected to create additional demand and offerings for the group’s financial services.

The group will likely see an increase in customer volumes as the in-store banking facility is rolled out across OK’s more than 53-strong branch network.

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