Banking designed to help - not hinder - entrepreneurs


A Standard Bank solution custom-designed for entrepreneurs makes the accountant the hero for their client.

The life of an entrepreneur is one long hustle. It’s filled with sleepless nights, long hours and many roles that have to be juggled. And then, to add an extra level of frustration, there are the banks – who often demand time and paperwork that most entrepreneurs just don’t have – because they’re so focused on running their businesses and ensuring everyone is paid at the end of each month.

Enter Standard Bank EDGE – a solution for entrepreneurs not rooted in the old, monolithic structures of traditional banking. Instead, the focus is on providing banking solutions for entrepreneurs that are lean, agile and responsive.

At her session on the second day of the Finance Indaba 2018, Zimkhitha Zatu, CEO of EDGE at Standard Bank, said the project had been in the making for three years, and started with the bank’s desire to find out how to serve entrepreneurs better.

She said: 

“Entrepreneurs are a very important part of the economy, and the feedback we got from them was that they don’t have time for banking, and that they relied on their accountants for far more than just for posting debits and credits. Instead, their accountants solved complex things that take the entrepreneur out of the business, and provided strategic advice. And so they wanted their accountants to be in on the conversation.”

In addition, accountants wanted to be able to serve their clients better. And so EDGE was devised to facilitate a better working relationship between those three entities: the entrepreneur, their accountant, and the bank.

“To get the right information, we used non-traditional ways like design thinking and lean innovation,” said Zimkhitha. “We deliberately had non-bankers running with it. If you want to build a disruptive solution, you have to abandon traditional ways.”

The traditional model, she said, was for banks to build a model and hope it would do the trick. Instead Standard Bank interviewed customers and took prototypes to them, making adjustments along the way with the feedback they received, until they arrived at a solution.


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She shared some of the feedback, sentiments like: “Banks look backwards, accountants look forward, entrepreneurs are in the now.” Or, “Say no, but say it quickly so I can move on.” And, “Banks need to understand that this is my life, not a job.”

Interestingly, she said many clients felt the banks judged them – that there were levels of success they had to achieve before they were taken seriously. 

“They might not be Richard Branson today, but in their eyes, that’s where they are heading.”

EDGE is constructed with two propositions: value to entrepreneurs, and power to accountants. Adding accountants into the banking relationship empowers them – they have access to all their client’s banking information, and don’t have to wait for the client to provide it before they can work or bill.

“We provide in the information in the format and frequency that works for you, and you can then be proactive,” said Zimkitha. “Now accountants can look at the books and say, three months down the line you’re probably going to need some funding, so they can prepare the documentation, get it pre-approved and have it sorted out now. So the accountant becomes the hero to the client,” she said.

EDGE’s promise to entrepreneurs was a “delightful banking experience” that viewed entrepreneurs holistically – not in the traditional silos of personal and business banking. Instead there would be one point of contact in the bank – a kind of concierge who would do all the running around in the background to find the solutions their clients needed – whether a home loan or a business solution.
EDGE was launched in July 2018 and already 602 entrepreneurs have signed up to date. 

“Put us to the test!” Zimkitha challenged the audience.

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