ECONET Wireless has switched on airtime purchases and cardless mobile money transactions on automated teller machines (ATMs) owned by Steward Bank, which it controls.
The bank launched the ZimSwitch and MasterCard enabled Steward Bank Smart ATMs at its flagship Eastgate branch in central Harare’s on Wednesday.
“EcoCash customers, regardless of whether they bank with Steward Bank or not, are now able to perform cardless transactions such as cashing out, directly from their EcoCash wallets at the smart ATMs,” Steward Bank explained.
Econet, the country’s biggest telecoms company, has more than three million registered users on its EcoCash mobile money platform.
Acting chief executive officer, Lance Mambondiani said his bank was leveraging on its links with Econet to come up with digital based financial solutions and packages.
“We want to build and introduce universal digital banking products. You can do your digital financial transactions such as EcoCash and cyber banking in Steward Bank branches even when you don’t bank with Steward Bank,” said Mambondiani.
Steward – which Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa bought into after buying out former majority shareholder Tawanda Nyambirai’s stake – has about 40 ATMs in most of the country’s urban centres.
According to a release by the company, account holders with other banks in the country are now also able to purchase airtime from Steward Bank’s ATMs as long as they have cash cards linked to MasterCard and the Zimswitch platform which links up all banking systems in Zimbabwe. The airtime is automatically credited into the mobile phone accounts of users.
Users “select the option to buy airtime on the ATM after inserting their cash card and enter their mobile number on request”. There will be no need for an airtime top-up pin, emphasised the company.
Japhet Aritho, the head of EcoCash, said EcoCash transactions carried out on Steward Bank’s smart ATMs did not attract an additional charge. Users would be charged the same fees as those charged by agents.
“This is a purely cardless and paperless transaction and we are offering it without additional charge. The charges for this are the same as those charged by agents for cash-outs,” said Aritho.
And, in an attempt to decongest Steward Bank and Econet branches, the Bank has introduced an EcoCash Express Teller at all its branches which is solely dedicated to EcoCash transactions.
With the increasing take-up of Ecocash Payroll, this will be a welcome convenience to SMEs and large companies that use EcoCash to pay their employees.
The bank’s branch network is being reconfigured to provide total support to EcoCash Agents, merchants and cash in and cash out customers throughout the country.
Steward Bank has also opened a high-tech branch in central Harare which is equipped with computers and free Wi-Fi internet to enable cyber-transactions instead of queuing up to be attended by bank tellers.
Econet, with nine million mobile network subscribers, is increasingly exploring ways to diversify its revenue streams and is tapping deeper into the mobile financial services sector.