Financial inclusion is always the name of our game, and part of this is understanding how financial services actually work, both as a consumer and a business owner. In line with this sentiment, we set out on a mission to open 8 personal bank accounts in the span of one week to test some of the onboarding assumptions for our Gathr solution.
Along the way, we discovered a couple of things about the simplicity (or lack thereof) of South Africa’s digital onboarding process. The craziest one? The ease of opening 8 bank accounts in one person’s name, each carrying its own account and transaction fees, without any red flags from any of the banks.
*Full disclosure: Although these were the average waiting times and experiences by our team members, this is not a reflection of ALL branches and user experiences. We fully understand that these vary from customer to customer and branch to branch.
How 8 South African banks stack up in the digital era of banking:
TymeBank – 5 minutes (online)
The bank is entirely online, with no physical branches. Personal bank accounts can be opened online via their website; after which you’ll need to fetch a physical card from a Pick ‘n Pay or Boxer store at a TymeBank Kiosk. Our team member attempted this at a Pick ‘n Pay store, however, the kiosk did not have any cards in stock, so we’re only using TymeBank’s virtual card. The online process was smooth, and easy to navigate, with account approval happening in 5 minutes. It was the fastest process hands down, however one downfall was having to go to a kiosk to get a physical card.
Digital onboarding: 8/10 (due to the in-person card pickup)
Capitec – 6 minutes (online)
The bank has both physical branches and an online offering, our team member opted to open an account online. After downloading the Capitec app, all you need to do is take a few selfies, enter your SA ID number and have your card delivered. To open this account, consumers need to have a smartphone. This process was the most seamless and digitally savvy and didn’t require having to leave our seat from application all the way through to card delivery.
Digital onboarding: 10/10
Discovery Bank – 6 minutes (online)
Discovery Bank is entirely online, our team member opened a gold transactional account via the Discovery Bank app. The application was very simple, with an easy document upload process. The bank card was delivered within 3 days.
Digital onboarding: 9/10
Bidvest Bank – 10 minutes (online)
Bidvest no longer has physical branches for Bidvest Bank customers, so we opened a Bidvest Bank Grow account online. Although there were quite a few steps involved, the application process was still smooth.
Digital onboarding: 9/10
FNB – 15 minutes (branch)
The bank has both physical branches and an online offering, our team member opted to open an account at a branch. As with any branch account opening, you’ll need all the required documents on hand. FNB’s application process was the most seamless and digitally savvy in-person branch application, and you could activate your bank card straight after the application.
Branch digital onboarding: 9/10
Standard Bank – 25 minutes (branch)
The bank has both physical branches and an online offering, our team member opted to open an account at a branch. To open a MyMo Standard Bank account at a branch, you’ll need to give all the required documents to the bank teller for them to handle the application. The in-person application took slightly longer than FNB, possibly because of slow staff processing or document verification/uploading lagging. However, the last step of actually receiving and activating the card was pretty straightforward.
Branch digital onboarding: 8/10
ABSA – 35 minutes (branch)
The bank has both physical branches and an online offering, our team member opted to open an ABSA account at a branch. After handing over the required documents to the bank teller, the process of verifying documents, opening the account and receiving the card took slightly longer than expected. This could possibly be due to slow staff processing, as the application steps were pretty similar to FNB and Standard Bank.
Branch digital onboarding: 7/10
Nedbank – 50 minutes (branch)
The bank has both physical branches and an online offering, our team member opted to open an account at a branch. Nedbank’s in-person branch process was by far the most tedious, with document verification/uploading taking longer than expected coupled with a slow digital system operated by the bank tellers.
Branch digital onboarding: 5/10
*Interesting side note – our team member opened their Discovery Bank account while waiting to open their Nedbank account.
Other key takeaways
Although all 8 of the banks have the option to open a bank account online, we opted to open accounts in-person at 4 of the Big 5 South African banks. Standard Bank, ABSA and Nedbank all promise a fast and easy online account application process; however, each of their branches’ digital onboarding experiences still needs improvements. It was also interesting that the team member didn’t have the same digital awareness for 4 of the big banks, that they associated with some of the other digital banks. This hints at a bigger picture of not only improving the digital offerings from banks, but also painting a digital picture associated with the brand.
We believe digital onboarding solutions like Gathr can assist banks in the digital long run by offering document verification e.g., proof of address, so that it’s a more seamless process both online for consumers and for employees of these banks.