Banking and telecoms on the path of convergence


“In the next five years when you look at the South African banking and telecommunications industries, I think you will see some mergers and acquisitions. It will be interesting in the next 5 years how these two worlds converge,” Stafford Massie, chief executive officer and founder of the payment technology innovations company, Thumbzup, told CNBC Africa.

The latest trend amongst South African banks is to obtain telecom licences and provide their clients with banking as well as telecommunication packages, all from one space.

“I think it’s interesting to see banking transform itself into the telecommunications world where you can literally get everything you want from a bank that you can get at a telecommunications company,” said Massie.


He added that the phone is becoming an increasingly essential transactional platform for this recent innovation by banks and will soon be dubbed the new credit card.

“It’s inevitable that the phone will become the credit card that can make voice calls and do data. The phone is the transactional platform,” he added.

“We will pay with our phones as the phone will store the store value. You should take a look at a phone as a mobile bank branch.”

An example of such an innovative bank is First National Bank. Massie explained that FNB can now be compared to a telecommunications company such as Vodacom, as they are both able to offer clients a smart device with a SIM (subscriber identity module) card and data package.

“You can get everything from FNB that you can get at Vodacom, pretty much. You can get an iPhone, an iPad, a sim card and a data package [from FNB]. So here’s a bank that has a telecoms licence, they’re provisioning data packages with their banking services,” he explained.

These kinds of technological changes, Massie pointed out, has made sub-Saharan Africa’s financial services and technology players as advanced as first world countries.

“If you take a look at financial services and look at technology players in general, you’ll find [that] sub-Saharan Africa is [as] advanced as you will find anywhere else in the world. If you take a look at what banks are doing in Australia and what banks are doing in South Africa, it’s incredible how ahead we are,” Massie added.