Digitisation is the new thrust

AS institutions increasingly embrace digital transformation, Zimbabwe’s largest financial services provider, CBZ Bank, on Wednesday launched a dedicated money transfer centre as it strengthens its hold on the diaspora remittance market. Business reporter Melody Chikono (MC) this week spoke to CBZ Bank managing director Peter Zimunya (PZ, pictured) who said digitisation is the way to go. Below are excerpts of the interview:

MC: Can you take us through your digital transformation over the years?

PZ: For CBZ, it is a journey we embarked on a few years back as part of the ease of doing business and also financial inclusion. Now with the pandemic it is even more imperative that we accelerate our efforts in that regard. People want to do their business in their homes.Even in rural areas they also want to carry out business from their homes. Also, with financial inclusion it makes it easier for people to transact from their homes. We also have self-service centres where you can come into our centre and use our equipment there. All I am saying is we need to accelerate it even more.

MC: Tell us about this money transfer centre. What motivated you to establish it?

PZ: With the world now a global village, it is imperative for CBZ to establish and grow strategic partners that will help us tap into various market segments such as the diaspora markets. This is in line with our vision “to be preferred provider of financial solutions in Zimbabwe, with a global reach”.

Over the past couple of years, we have entered into strategic partnerships with money transfer agencies, namely Western Union, World Remit, MoneyGram, Mukuru, HelloPaisa and Xpresslinks, where anyone receiving money sent through these partners into any of our branches across the country can collect the funds.

The success of these partnerships led us to augment the service by establishing a dedicated money transfer centre at our Robert Mugabe Road branch. We look forward to rolling these centres across the country in the near future. This is a centre but the money transfer centre has also been there. Remember, we are serving not only our clients but other banks as well.

And because of this pandemic, people are sending money and we want to make it easier for them to access their money.

MC: What can the public expect from this innovation?

PZ: The launch is in line with the bank’s thrust to provide fast and reliable service only to its customers but the nation at large.

We looked at the foreign remittances space and realised the amount of time the people are spending in queues to collect their funds and a decision was made to intervene by coming up with an exclusive centre to facilitate the ease of collection of funds. The service will still be available at all CBZ Bank branches to increase convenience.

What makes CBZ MTA (money transfer agency) centre different is the level of customer experience which we have pitched at world-class level. This is to ensure that our customers will enjoy dedicated remittance business and refer friends and family to use the same facility. The bank will be rolling out similar initiatives in other major urban centres around the country.

MC: You will agree with me that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, diaspora remittances have been decreasing. One would then question the timing of the launch. What are your expectations?

PZ: The key objective is to say let us do a service. It is to be responsible. We might not make money out of it as of now, but we have to be responsible citizens and be able to serve the people. We can consider business later but at the moment it is not about the numbers.

MC: You have also launched this centre at a time the economy is unstable and multiple policy changes around currency in the country. What, given this state of affairs, are the obstacles you are likely to face in discharging this service?

PZ: I always say whenever there is a challenge, there is an opportunity.

There are opportunities. The mere fact that we have got our digital strategy, what does it do? You can increase your numbers but you can also reduce cost per transaction. Which we think is actually easy and more important. When you actually do the transaction, when someone is coming into a bank which not digitalised, it is more expensive to execute as you are passing that expense to the client.

By going digital, the cost of doing a transaction is cheaper. You are then able to drive volumes and get your money from there rather than burdening the end user

MC: So where do you see this service in five years’ time?

PZ: We actually plan, like I alluded to earlier, to roll out other business centres.

It is a financial inclusion strategy to begin with. We envisage growth then. So they are financially included, so financial inclusion is a good thing.
MC: But at what point can you start talking about a return on this investment?

PZ: Returns are always difficult to estimate, but I think the first year we are basically doing a service, but as the economy comes up as well then we can start talking about numbers.

MC: So in terms of volumes what are we looking at?

PZ: For now, we have not started looking at the volumes but give us a couple of months then we can start talking about our volumes. Digitisation is the new thrust, we are not going back.

You should expect more from us either re-packaging what we already have making it better and smarter for our clients, or new products altogether, which I cannot pre-empt at the moment.

MC: What can you say about your investment in digitisation going into the future?

PZ: We have no fixed number because things have been changing; it is an area of further investments.

However, I would want to reiterate that money transfer is a good service to our people. This is what we have always wanted, to ease the burdens of people queuing for their money and also allowing them to get an opportunity to interact with the financial inclusion as they may also end up opening formal bank accounts. But again, it is the service income, it is the convenience that we are looking for.

MC: CBZ is one of the banks which have been reporting good financial numbers across the board, what can you say have been the drivers of your performance?
PZ: If you look at it, look at our market share as well; in terms of the deposits, the loan book and other various product we have brought into the market as well. If you look at our geographical footprint compared to any other bank, I would say we have the muscle and our sectors are variable, we look after everyone in a special way.

MC: What have been the challenges you have faced in achieving this performance?

PZ: Obviously, when an economy is struggling it is never a stroll in the park. Like I have said, never miss a good opportunity; in times of crisis, there are opportunities in there.