Finance Indaba: Standard Bank gives entrepreneurs and accountants the EDGE

 "We are empowering accountants to play a strategic advisory role to their entrepreneurial clients."

Banking should be simple and assist  entrepreneurs to grow their businesses without running into unnecessary administrative roadblocks. With that in mind, Standard Bank has created EDGE, the culmination of three years of innovation, trial and error. Head of EDGE, Zimkhitha Zatu, will speak at the Finance Indaba Africa 2018 about the appeal for accountants. We chatted to her to whet the appetite and to look ahead at some of the great stuff diamond partner Standard Bank will be talking about at the Finance Indaba.

"Through EDGE, accountants can be more proactive, add more value and, ultimately, charge more for this increased effectiveness.”

Why do you call yourself a quasi banker?
“I am still not an official one, because I don’t know the lingo. [Laughs] I am sure I will graduate one day, but I think I’ll need another year at least.”

Why did you join Standard Bank EDGE?
“What Standard Bank has been working on for three years, speaks to the frustration I had when I was consulting. SMME entrepreneurs find it very difficult to raise finance. With EDGE we are creating the opportunity to correct that.”

Why did Standard Bank hire someone without banking background?
“That was a deliberate approach, to try and have a lot of non-bankers doing the development and think outside of the box. We got a lot of leeway to develop products. There a lot of support for what we do within the bank.”

What exactly is EDGE?
“EDGE is an offering that started as an innovation project in the bank. We were asked to find truthfully and honestly what entrepreneurs want from a bank. Instead of a bank developing products and seeing if there is uptake, it was the reverse. Using design thinking and lean startup methodology, entrepreneurs were asked to develop products for themselves, which the bank would try to execute on. It was a very practical approach - and it worked.” 

“In the discovery interviews, entrepreneurs kept mentioning their accountants and the vital role they were playing in their businesses. The accountant is trying to support them, like we do as a bank. They have their own regulations and professional guidance and help the entrepreneurs to stay on the right side of the numbers. Because of this feedback, we have developed two solutions: one for entrepreneurs and one for their accountants.” 

What is so exciting about EDGE for accountants?
“We give accountants access to information. We have the information they want and they have insights in information we need to help entrepreneurs. It prevents the entrepreneur having to go back-and-forth between accountant and bank to fulfil the requirements for a loan, for example. We have opened up channels where we can share information directly with the accountant, making both our lives easier. Accountants now have one point of contact within Standard Bank for all their clients. This way, we are empowering accountants to pay a strategic advisory role to their entrepreneurial clients. They can be more proactive, add more value and, ultimately, charge more for this increased effectiveness.”

What does EDGE mean for entrepreneurs?
“In addition to business and personal transaction accounts, we offer a full
suite of banking products such as credit and debit cards, overdraft facilities, foreign payments, etc. We also offer them a single point of contact in the bank, airport lounge access, as well as facilitate funding requirements on their behalf, to name just a few examples.”

What has the uptake been?
“We now work with 200 accountants and over 350 entrepreneurs have EDGE accounts. Many of them are from our beta phase, because we only launched officially in July. We are aiming to be profitable just like any business unit. Our bankers are also using us to see how we can add more value to existing clients. For example, we have accountants that bank with us, but we don’t yet work with all their clients.”

What successes have you seen to date?
“One of the successes that we have is in the home loan space, where we do a lot of home loans for self-employed entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs tend to pay everybody else first and themselves last, which means they often don’t qualify for a home loan based on the salary they pay themselves. Through a more holistic approach, we are managing to grant more home loans based on the numbers of the business.”

How does EDGE contribute to a better South Africa?
“We see globally that SMMEs are at the heart of innovation and job creation. In a country like ours, we are in dire need of that to boost our economy. We are not just paying lip service to helping entrepreneurs, we are living it. Banking doesn’t need to be complicated, and with EDGE it isn’t. You might not be a Bill Gates now, but a bank - especially one with 155 years of experience - can empower you.”