A Look Into Patrice Motsepe’s Rising DIGITAL BANKING EMPIRE

In order for us to understand how TymeBank became one of the fastest growing digital banks in the world, let’s take it back to June 2012 when ‘Take Your Money Everywhere,’ aka, TYME, was officially launched by a small team within Deloitte Consulting headed by Tjaart van Der Walt and Ceon Jonker, as a mobile money remittance operator funded by the MTN Group to provide technology to retailers that enable them to offer local remittance services cheaper than banks.

From the on, Rolf Eichweberas came on as the third co-founder of the project. Later that same year, Tyme secured a deal with Grobank as their banking partner, and Pick N Pay as a customer.

The idea was to use mobile money as the conjugate for remittance inside South Africa through Pick n Pay & Boxer Superstores.

The investment & partnership with MTN allowed Tyme to tap into MTNs customer base & offer them several services for free vs non-MTN customers.

These were the days before MTN’s Momo account. So with the 3 partnerships; Grobank as the banking partner, Pick n Pay Group for cash-in, cash-out services & MTN for customers, Tyme built the technology to convert cash at one till into mobile money & back to cash at the other till for the remittee.

Part of what Tyme built was a core banking system. So in 2013, they signed a partnership with e-bank to build a low-cost digital bank in Namibia. The digital bank was launched in 2014 but Tyme had to sell out of the joint venture after they were acquired by The Commonwealth Bank of Australia in January 2015 for 365 million rands. At the time, Tyme held a 38.3% stake in e-Bank, which they sold to an Investment company in Namibia called Point Break.

Commbank bought Tyme for the team & the core banking platform that they had built. The idea was to use the existing technology & build a retail bank. So in October 2015, Rolf Eichweberas led the application for a retail banking license. The next 2 & a half years were tumultuous for Tyme but important for their future.

It took them 2 years to get a full banking license from the South African Reserve Bank but they continued to solidify their partnership with Pick n Pay, first by signing a money transfer partnership for a remittance product in May 2016 & then a 10-year distribution agreement in February 2017.

The same month MTN decided to cancel its partnership with Tyme on the grounds of a “lack of commercial viability”, Tyme parted ways with MTN & the GroBank. Rolf the co-founder & head of strategic partnerships resigned & numerous developers left to join OUTsurance.

Tyme, which had been renamed to TymeDigital, received investment from African Rainbow Capital, an investment holding company chaired by South African Billionaire Patrice Motsepe, the company bought 10% of TymeDigital from Commbank.

In 2018, Australia’s royal commission led a nearly year long public inquiry into wrongdoing by the country’s biggest banks. Amid the probe, Commbank started to retreat from International markets to refocus on Australasia; very convenient timing for ARC who then signalled that they would buy Commbank’s 90% stake and launch the bank themselves.

The transaction was completed in September 2018 & TymeDigital became TymeBank, signing up its first group of customers in November of that year through a soft launch the company conducted.

Based on customer feedback from the soft launch, the product offering was iterated and perfected until three months later, when Tymebank officially launched to the South African public with a value proposition based on three pillars — simplicity, transparency, and affordability.

If this sounds familiar, you are right. It closely follows Capitec Bank’s strategy of simplicity and transparency, which helped it to become South Africa’s largest bank by clients.

The strategy also worked well for Tymebank, which signed over 7 million South African customers since launching, adding 200,000 new customers each month while carrying a 70% 30-day account activity rate.

The branchless bank attributes its milestone to its core banking technology platform, hosted securely in the cloud, as well as its no monthly banking fees model and lower transaction fees.

But unlike Capitec though, Tymebank doesn’t have any branches. Instead, it uses 14,000 till points across the Pick n Pay and Boxer network and over 850 kiosks to serve its clients with opening accounts, sending or withdrawing money.

In a surprising move, we saw TymeBank targeting churchgoers of Zion Christian Church as clients. ZCC is the largest African-initiated church in Southern Africa, with membership of about 12 million. About nine million ZCC members are based in South Africa of which about six million are adults.

The bank entered into a partnership with ZCC in early 2020 to offer a banking proposition to its members.

The partnership with TymeBank introduced the Zion City Moria Membership Card, which will serve as both a membership card as well as the member’s bank debit card. Among the benefits offered by the card are extra Smart Shopper rewards on Pick n Pay purchases; zero-rated data for SmartApp and internet banking; and security access control.

The momentum of the deal was initially derailed when government implemented lockdown measures in response to covid-19 breakout but later on, the process to onboard church members was resumed once those preventative measures were relaxed.

In line with the bank’s intent to diversify its current customer profile to include more customers from the middle and upper middle-income groups, TymeBank sealed a strategic partnership with The Foschini Group early this year, a leading fashion retailer with more than 26 million loyalty customers, to meet the evolving financial services needs of consumers in the TFG ecosystem.

Dubbed Bank.Shop.Be, the initiative sees TFG customers banking where they shop. To this end, customers are able to open a TymeBank TFG Money account at more than 600 dedicated branded TymeBank TFG Money kiosks at TFG stores that include Foschini, Markham and Sportscene.

The partnership with The Foschini Group raised the number of kiosks to 1,450, giving the bank one of the largest banking access point networks in South Africa.

According to TymeBank’s CEO, Coen Jonker, the kiosks have been a hit, 85% of Tymebank accounts have been opened at kiosks, while 20% were opened online.

TymeBank’s distribution network, which is based on its 3 partnerships with the Pick N Pay Group, The Foschini Group, as well as the Zion Christian Church, helps to keep operational costs low and passes cost savings onto customers in the form of more affordable services.

A clear majority of the bank’s customers cite affordability as a key source of value and the reason they opened a TymeBank account. The distribution network also extends the bank’s reach to areas that are underserved by traditional players.

For its first ever acquisition, TymeBank bought Retail Capital for 1.5 billion rands, a fintech company that provides funding to small and medium-sized businesses, the company wanted to ramp up its plans of taking on what it terms “incumbent banks” on business banking.

Launched in 2011, Retail Capital has developed a robust risk decisioning process for small business funding products, launched a successful set of fintech solutions, and developed the underlying technology for embedded funding solutions.

The company, which is currently profitable and capital generative, has so far funded more than 43,000 business owners with over 5.5 billion rands.

After the acquisition, Retail Capital became a division of TymeBank and was headed by the same CEO, Karl Westvig, who joined the company’s executive committee with responsibilities of handling TymeBank’s business banking and lending offerings, which already has over 120,000 customers.

The acquisition will enable TymeBank to expand its offering to entrepreneurs to include working capital finance. Retail Capital has acquired significant risk management experience over the past decade and through different economic cycles. They have an experienced team in place and their risk models and operational processes have been battle-tested and optimised to a significant degree for small-business funding.

In early 2021, following a change in South Africa’s exchange control regulations, TymeBank’s business interests were consolidated to a Singaporean-based holding company called Tyme Group, as the upstart bank embarked on expansion into South East Asia.

According to Jonker, Singapore offered the ideal home base given its stability and tax advantages. Basing the headquarters in Singapore was also in line with the company’s South East Asia expansion plans because companies in the region felt more “comfortable” doing business with a Singaporean-based group.

The group heads the firm’s strategy, business development, data, analytics and artificial intelligence functions. The group’s global footprint also includes a product development and engineering hub in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, which employs a team of skilled people, including over 300 engineers.

In October 2022, after receiving its digital banking licence from the Philippines Central Bank, Tyme Group partnered with JG Summit to launch a new bank in the Philippines called Gotyme

The name, “Gotyme,” is a nod to the Gokongwei family, which owns JG Summit, an investment holding company which has interests in airlines, telecom, banking, food, power, property and retail.

Similar to its agreement with Pick n Pay, banking kiosks are available in stores: the retailers, drug stores and hardware shops owned by JG Summit, where clients will also be able to deposit and withdraw cash at tills.

Since its launch, GoTyme has signed over 1 million customers, a feat made possible by the bank’s focus on providing seamless digital products and services supported by a human touch, which makes for more personal service and greater empathy.

This “phygital” business model, a combination of physical and digital systems is key to making all the difference. At the current expansion rate, it is likely to exceed its original goal of 5 million customers within 3 years.

The group had previously considered entering into Pakistan, but cancelled that plan due to challenges in obtaining a digital banking license. Right now they have their sights on entering Vietnam, and later the rest of Africa as the group believes a “multi-country” approach is the future of banking, where economies of scale including using the same technology across different markets will be key as margins get thinner.

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