“Leveraging technology and our relationship networks to narrow the distance, ability and reach between small and peripheral township enterprises and the existing formal economy is critical if South Africa is to unlock new, independent, economic growth, create jobs and sustain broader inclusion in our economy,” says Jenine Zachar, Head of Enterprise and Direct Banking at Standard Bank’s Business & Commercial Banking division.
Addressing the divide between big and small businesses in South Africa requires addressing the challenge of informality.
This includes assisting small emerging enterprises with formal business registration, building adequate payment channels, and developing business skills by providing enterprises with technology and access to mentors and advisors.
In the process, Standard Bank also leverages its networks and broad client base to introduce and link relevant small enterprises to each other, so that “small businesses find the skills and support they need to compete effectively,” explains Zachar.
Standard Bank’s stable of easy-to-use, affordable, off-the-shelf business products and networking solutions currently includes:
- Enterprise Direct, providing clients virtual access to a team of bankers and specialists able to guide and support small businesses through start-up, growth, development and expansion, without needing to go into a branch
- BizConnect, a dedicated resource hub providing businesses free financial, marketing, and operational support
- Point of sale devices for small retailers
- Free information and coaching for small businesses via Standard Bank BizConnect
- A R5-a-month MyMoBiz transactional account, enabling small businesses to track and manage their business finances and transactions affordably
- A mobile banking app and internet banking service enabling 24/7 digital banking
- Instant Money, helping small businesses store cash safely at no cost while enabling wallet to wallet payments and cash deposits and withdrawals through fifty thousand access points, including major retailers
- SimplyBlu, an eCommerce solution in partnership with MasterCard, allows businesses to showcase their products and services online while providing a customisable e-commerce website with the ability to perform online payments. SimplyBlu also offers a stand-alone and easy-to-use payment gateway function for existing websites
- Value-added services devices create additional revenue streams for retailers through selling airtime and lotto tickets
- Innovative, secure, and competitively priced cash collection and other cash services for small businesses operating on the ground in the real economy
- Trade Club and Trade Suite together provide an end-to-end trading, import/export, financing, shipping, customs and foreign exchange facility.
“All these services are part of a small business development ecosystem that links peripheral small businesses to the established economy, driving the growth of individual business clients as well as the broader economy, says Zachar.
In a recent example of how the business development tool kit works, Standard Bank recently partnered with a township-based fresh produce aggregator, Spinach King, growing the small business into a multi award-winning company supplying more than 150 retail stores, including Spar group, Pick N Pay, Wellness Warehouse and various delis in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KZN.
Standard Bank also supported Spinach King build its own branches in Khayelitsha and Phillipi while developing its own central production plants in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
By necessity, Standard Bank’s small business development ecosystem is extremely flexible and agile.
To assist KZN and Gauteng small business clients impacted by the 2021 July riots, Standard Bank piloted a crowdfunding initiative in partnership with Thundafund, one of Africa’s leading crowdfunding platforms.
Standard Bank agreed to match contributions to damaged and looted businesses – up to R50 000. This provided an incentive for participating clients to present compelling campaigns as to why they needed support.
This agile response to the plight of small business clients successfully mobilized money from within the communities that these small businesses served while also tapping their trading, partner, supplier and client value chains to support their recovery.
The collaboration has since evolved into a permanent alternative funding mechanism, allowing small enterprises to create promotion campaigns and receive crowd-funded contributions from the public.
“By looking beyond just banking – and partnering with clients to deploy the bank’s end-to-end business support ecosystem, we are able to say to yes to businesses more often because we’re intimately involved in their success” concludes Zachar.