By Faith Zaba
THE past 18 months have been tumultuous not only for Zimbabwe but the globe. Having gone through three waves of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, health experts warn of a fourth wave. Sadly, Zimbabwe has lost more than 4 600 lives while about 133 000 people were infected by the virus. The pandemic caused significant market disruptions that called for innovation and new ways of doing business. Businesses and ordinary Zimbabweans had to adapt to the ‘new normal’.
Banks quickly transformed to thrive in the future financial ecosystem. Equity Axis managing director Respect Gwenzi, in an article we published last week, explored the threats posed to banking by Covid-19. He said: “Unlike other past financial crises or business cycle downturns, such as the 2007-2009 Global Financial Crisis and the hyperinflationary period, the Covid-19 crisis poses a unique threat to banking as we know it.
“Banks, as a result, will have to cope with a potential economic slump and a larger share of distressed assets in their books. An overall weak capital position in the banking sector could pose a threat to economic growth as lending channels are abridged.”
Covid-19 deepened an existing economic challenge characterised by acute foreign currency shortages, a debilitating liquidity crisis, high inflation that has resulted in skyrocketing prices of goods and services, company closures and job losses.
The effects are catastrophic for Zimbabwe’s fragile economy.
Despite disruptions to operations that have been brought by the rapid shift to digital platforms, the future appears bright. Zimbabwean banks continue to innovate and accelerate digital transformation.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Independent honoured banks for resilience. We held our 22nd Banks and Banking Sector Survey under the theme Adapting to market disruption through digitalisation. It is the 6th year that First Capital Bank Zimbabwe has been the official partner.
The 2021 Banks and Banking Sector Survey has demonstrated how important it has become for economies to adapt to the ‘new normal’, and how banks are rolling out digitalisation and other innovations to make the banking experience easy and profitable.
Banks have embraced digitalisation for customer convenience.
The digitalisation journey has seen banks introduce services such as WhatsApp, Internet and Mobile Banking. Gone are the days for tiring paperwork in most banks. Due to the ravaging effects of Covid-19, the market quickly embraced digital banking due to lockdowns and health protocols meant to contain the pandemic.
We commend the banking sector for defying the odds and scaling up higher despite an economic turbulence.
On behalf of Zimbabwe Independent and Alpha Media Holdings (AMH), I would like to congratulate Ecobank, for coming out as the overall best performing bank. I also wish to applaud the first and second runners-up Stanbic and CBZ, respectively.
This year, we introduced the Bank CEO of the Year Award and congratulations to the People’s Own Savings Bank (the POSB) chief executive Admore Kandlela. We say well done to CABS for winning the Building Society of the Year award. Also hats-off to the winner of the Best Digital Innovation Award, FBC Bank Limited and the first and second runners-up Nedbank Zimbabwe and POSB.
The Sustainability Award was won by Steward Bank, while NMB Zimbabwe received the Corporate Governance Award and Standard Charted Bank the Social Cluster Award. Through this, the winners have shown that the banking sector has the ability to overcome hurdles. It is testimony that perseverance, innovation and creativity are the pillars of sustainable business.
We are also grateful to our keynote speakers Zenzo Lusengo, executive director at AMB Capital, and Finance and Economic Development permanent secretary George Guvamatanga.
As the Zimbabwe Independent, we recognise that research and objective analysis of financial performance is best conducted by independent experts. This year, we once again partnered Equity Axis, a notable player in the financial research space as analysts and adjudicators. I have no doubt in the ability of our banking industry to overcome headwinds. The sector has emerged out of previous turbulences.