Money remittance and digital banking provider, Hello Paisa launched its digital bank in South Africa in partnership with Sasfin earlier this year. The bank was developed with the aim to help the unbanked population have access to banking solutions.
IT News Africa caught up with Ahmed Cassim, Hello Paisa’s Managing Director who unpacked the company’s success since the launch of its digital bank two months ago. He said, “We announced the partnership in the first week of March and we launched the product in May-early-June so the solution has been around for just less than two months now. From a customer point of view, we have been servicing segments of the communities certain niche target markets for the last 12 years in various guises and those are our go-to people. The feedback so far has been nothing short of amazing because we are getting the impression that it was a real customer problem that we went about solving and it has the ability to change lives. In the last five to six weeks, we have had a few thousand customers that have already utilized the service and along the way we are learning what they like, what we can improve on.”
With 14 years of providing financial solutions such as money remittance to thousands of customers and micro-merchants who traditional players cannot – and will not – reach, Hello Paisa offers customers an option to have a bank account to keep their money and a debit card to transact without having to go to a bank branch.
“At the moment we have about 300 fully trained sales employees who reside in the community which we target. They understand the product, they understand compliance and they understand how to educate our customers. We started as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator in partnership with Cell C and that product has been around for nine years. It gives us information on where the customers reside and our sales team have been crafted to target stores where our customers reside. We onboard customers out on the streets but we also have 12 Hello stores across the country where customers can be on-boarded.
Supported by Sasfin’s banking platforms and infrastructure, Hello Paisa’s digital banking offering comprises an adaptable ecosystem of services, including an intuitive mobile app, mobile sim card, bank account and a Visa debit card that operates at any ATM or POS device. Based on their ecosystem, Hello endeavours to bundle its offering to suit South African’s needs. The account can be opened in minutes and is driven by game-changing, smart technology.
According to the MD, Hello Paisa is currently working on a digital solution that will enable customers to be on-boarded with just an Android app and proof of identification that can be verified.
Financial literacy imparts knowledge and skills that enable customers to make decisions that will improve their financial wellbeing. This will also help them choose services and products that best suite their financial needs.
“We cannot underestimate the importance of educating customers. Hello Paisa targets individuals who have never experienced the world of banking, these individuals need to be taught from the ground up. With the help of our ambassadors and the use of technology, we are solving the financial education challenge,” said Cassim.
The debate around bank fees has been an ongoing topic with a number of banks in South Africa introducing a zero monthly fee account.
Addressing the topic of bank charges, Cassim says, “We’ve got multiple products, from our own SIM card to a distribution business, to a cross-border business remittance business to the provision of airtime, the list goes on.”
“The most it will cost a customer who has an account with us is R30 per month. If they use certain other Hello products in the manner in which we want them to use it, we could actually pay them to have an account with us. For instance, a Hello bank customer can get cheaper rates on remittances or get discounted airtime. Ultimately, what we are aiming for is that when a customer remains within our ecosystem, engage with the company and utilize multiple products they will be able to make more money than it costs them to use our product,” he adds.
The company is no stranger to recognition for its solutions, the Hello Group among other awards received, the 2015 EY Worlds Entrepreneurs of the year for Southern Africa and Hello Paisa were winners of the 2016 SWIFT Innotribe African Startup Challenge. In July 2019, Hello Paisa was recognised as one of 50 fintechs driving financial inclusion across the globe.
“We see how financial inclusion is changing lives, how it impacting communities and it gives us immense pride to be recognised by a group of leading experts and companies in a global environment. From what we were led to believe, there were more than 400 entrants from which they chose the final shortlist of 50 companies that are actually achieving financial inclusion. It has been amazing. For the Hello team internally, for our partners externally, it’s an indication that for all the years of trying, all the years of understanding customer problems, all the years of walking the walk with our customers we are starting to get the recognition. This is yet another prize, we have been privileged enough to have achieved and won other competitions in the same types of categories focusing on financial inclusion and client centricity. All of us are exceptionally proud of this achievement,” said Cassim.
Growth and future plans
The MD says that the sole focus for the remainder of 2019 and early 2020 is to execute and scale the current banking solution that is available in South Africa. On the expansion front, he reveals that for Hello Paisa the intention is to go much deeper into the products.
“Within the business, we have operations in Malawi and Zimbabwe, but it’s purely remittances. We don’t have any short term aims and objectives with regards to launching any digital banking products in the rest of Africa within the next 12 months. We are going to be so head down busy executing in South Africa,” revealed Cassim.