Nedbank focuses on rural markets

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Banking group Nedbank, which has historically been positioned as an exclusive bank servicing upper middle class and wealthy clients, is stepping up its plans to roll out services to people in townships and rural areas as implementation of the National Credit Act (NCA) draws closer.

Nedbank mass markets divisional director Mahomed Saloojee said that banks were generally not doing enough to cater for the largely previously disadvantaged mass market.

"Over the last 24 months we have changed the perception of the bank in many constituencies," said Saloojee, "but the aspirational element is still something we defend."

At last week's consumer day conference hosted by the National Consumer's Forum, competition commissioner Shan Ramburuth said that excessive pricing as a result of collusion within all industries was costing poor people the most.

Last year, the commission received complaints that pharmaceutical companies made anti-retro viral (ARV) Aids treatment too expensive for Aids sufferers in Africa where more than 50percent of the world's cases are found.

"Banking services, like ARV treatment, has a tremendous effect on people's well-being," Ramburuth said. "As a consequence of competition commission intervention we were able to bring the price of ARV treatment from R4500 to R450 a month. I believe that with the right intervention we can make financial services work for underdeveloped communities."

Saloojee said that Nedbank had identified 100 underdeveloped communities in townships and rural areas. "We want to bring banking to the people, instead of just signing up new accounts and leaving. We have permanent teams in these communities to provide ongoing consumer education, consultancy and on-site mobile banking services," Saloojee said.

Nedbank's efforts follow similar initiatives by the country's other three big banks - Standard Bank, Absa and First National Bank.