Zimbabwe could be said to have adopted a structured economic system from the inception. In the sense that every traditional apparatus existed to run a thriving economy and in particular banking. Zimbabwe can also be said to have gone through the four stages in banking and what was then supposed to be Fintech (before the name existed) that is:
- Banking 1.0 – Physical customer cards with actual names written in ink.
- Banking 2.0 – Mainframe computers begin to come in though still localized to branch level.
- Banking 3.0 – The waning of branch-based banking and the emergence of self-service solutions such as Internet Banking.
- Banking 4.0 – The physical disposition of banking services altogether and the reduction of physical need to visit a branch brought about by the proliferation of smartphones and feature phones.
In the revolution, it can be argued that the focus for banks was not to bring Financial solutions to the customer but rather to draw the customer to existing solutions that were neither evolving no increase in the value proposition. In other words, the thrust was to bring about profits based on the existing products and services. Whatever change took place, the need was to find ways and means of keeping the customer attached to their savings account and bringing their money to the bank. Everything revolved around the account. Rigidity?
What could be described as Fintechs came into Zimbabwe around 2011. Their focus was to provide solutions that were not bent on retaining a customer but providing a service that the perceived customer could not do without. The segregation that existed in banking in terms of types of account and qualifying criteria vanished in Mobile based solutions, especially from the Telecomms sector. An example is in a Peer-2-Peer transfer. This is a necessity regardless of the geographical location of the customer nor the earning history nor the disposable income and so forth.
By providing a service as opposed to attaining a relational customer, Fintechs were able to provide enriched banking services at a minute cost and exponential convenience. The major advantage was also brought about by the fact that the pioneering Fintechs like Econet owned the infrastructure that provided these services and enjoyed the element of exclusive disruption capacity denied all others. Innovation was not even a discussion point as there was so much value in simply adapting contemporary solutions from other parts of the world. Banking remained “banking” and Fintechs became Service Providers.
Going forward, with the Bank and Mobile Network Operators “wars” reasonably settled, innovation and success will be defined by the ability to harness both the existing Banking and Communications (MNOs) platforms to provide Fintech Services. A lot will depend on one keyword that shifts scales, Interoperability. The banks are arguably more willing to allow peripheral services around their existing business models. The MNOs, however, may need to enable more cross-platform interaction to allow innovation.