Launched fully in February 2019, the digital-first TymeBank (Take Your Money Everywhere) is slated to bring in 500,000 customers by the end of July, as it shakes up South Africa’s banking scene with advanced data science.

“One of the core pillars of our brand is stripping away all the nonsense and actually focusing on humanness,” explained chief marketing officer Luisa Mazinter in an interview with SA media publication

Tyme’s identity is based on individual potential – its slogan is “You’ve got this” – and its February launch spot played against a handful of banking terms before alighting on the greater importance of how people actually live.

“It’s about focusing on authentic stories and real people and that doesn’t happen in the banking industry,” she continued.

“It’s inaccessible and it’s not real and we thought: ‘We’ve got to get away from all of that, we’ve got to completely reinvent a voice and a visual identity that will stand out.’ If we’re disrupting technically, we need to disrupt emotionally.”

While data is at the core of the product, helping to identify points of friction, its marketing chief is also proud of its use in her department.

“As a marketer, you need to be able to understand data at its core; you need to be able to look at data to extract behavioural insights and profile things that are going to help you to be more relevant to your customers but, at the same time, you need to know how to tell stories to make emotional connections.”

According to Business Tech, its efforts are working. By the end of July, the bank is on-track to hit 500,000 customers and if this trajectory continues it will hit one million by the end of the year. It has said though that it needs 2.1 million customers in order to break even.

The bank began as a consultancy project by Deloitte for the South African telco MTN, in which the carrier wanted to provide a mobile money solution, connecting the accessibility and reach of retailer Pick n Pay with the financial plumbing of South African Bank of Athens (now known as Grobank).

From the outset, Tyme’s technology radically simplified the process of getting a bank account in South Africa by developing ‘know your customer’ (KYC) accreditation technology which allows customers to open a bank account via mobile phone or by going into a Pick n Pay. In late September of 2017, Tyme’s was the first new banking licence awarded in South Africa for 20 years. Others have since been awarded, fuelling a new scene of tech-driven bank brands.

Customers can open a full FICA [Financial Intelligence Centre Act, a 2003 anti-money laundering and tax evasion law] compliant account in under five minutes online. Thanks to the partnership with Pick n Pay group, customers can then go to kiosks at Pick n Pay or Boxer stores nationwide and pick up their cards by providing a phone number, ID number, and thumbprint for biometric authentication.

“There’s nowhere else in the world that you can literally walk up to a kiosk and open a fully FICA compliant bank account,” Mazinter pointed out. “What we’ve tried to do is strip all the complexity out of the tech to make it as simple as possible but also as transparent as possible.”

That partnership also means customers have as many as 14,000 points at which to deposit cash – equivalent to if not superior to some of the bank’s traditional competition, she added.

Thanks to a lack of physical infrastructure, “we don’t have all these costs that are associated with running a traditional bank; what we do is we pass all those savings back to our customers and look at every single way we possibly can squeeze value to give our customers.”

Like other fintechs (such as Monzo, and Starling Bank in the UK), TymeBank’s account comes bundled with a tool called GoalSave, which allows customers to save money into up to 10 different pockets.

In the first sign of competition in the industry since the early 2000s, South Africa’s relatively tame banking sector is facing a significant shake-up as new competitors enter the market, “much the same as Uber did in the taxi industry,” Tyme’s CEO Sandile Shabalala told Reuters in late 2018, just after the brand’s soft-launch.

South Africa is one of the most developed economies on the continent, where 80% of the population has a bank account. Operating efficiencies among the new banks, however, suggest that they could pose a major threat to incumbent’s positions and profits – even though the latter have strong perceptions among South Africans. This is one reason given for the failure of Vodacom’s M-Pesa in the country, as it partnered with Nedbank, which was considered a bank for high earners.

The fight for South Africa’s financial heart will instead take place in offering greater savings and credit products, as Tyme has understood.

Sourced from, Business Tech, Fin24, Reuters, BBC, WARC