Capitec Bank: Low-Cost Banking for Joe Average
By December 2006, Capitec Bank, South Africa’s newest listed retail bank, had come a long way from its origins as a microlending organisation in 2001. Over time it had started introducing other banking services to its entry-level clients, so that by 2006 it offered all the basic banking services, namely lending, transacting and savings. Capitec’s chief executive for marketing and corporate affairs, Carl Fischer, considered the organisation’s strategic plan for 2007: to position itself as a proper bank in a much broader target market. Despite the perception that Capitec was more of a microlending organisation than a bank, it had in fact been performing exceptionally well as a bank for well over four years, with limited marketing effort (see Exhibit 1). Fischer realised that the key to survival for a low-cost bank in South Africa lay in high volumes, but still wrestled with the question as to how Capitec could overcome the current perception that it was a niche bank in order to attract the volumes it needed to compete successfully.
Background to Entry-Level Banking in South Africa1
The South African government had endeavoured to facilitate and regulate the financial sector since 1992. Prior to the promulgation in 1992 of an Act exempting small loans from interest rate restrictions imposed according to the Usury Act of 1968, the vast majority of the South African population did not have legal access to formal credit. Banks did not offer microcredit, so borrowers had to resort to pawnbrokers, informal operators, mashonisas (township moneylenders) and other systems such as the stokvelsa, burial societiesb and rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs). After 1992, however, a whole new industry arose. Because it was legal for interest rates to exceed the cap placed on loans by the Usury Act, two separate types of operation began to expand: independent, cash-loan providers, who made one-month loans; and term lenders, who ensured repayment using payroll deductions. a A stokvel is an informal savings club in South Africa. Members of a stokvel pay a mutually agreed sum into the club every month. The cumulative savings of the group are then rotated to each member of the group on a regular basis. After everyone has had their turn in receiving the contributions, the group may disband or start another cycle. b Burial societies, a hybrid of the stokvel, are informal self-insurance schemes, which absorb the costs of social activities and cultural requirements of funerals. Stokvel members contribute a fixed amount of money to a common pool weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Money is then drawn when the particular need arises.
This case was prepared by Research Associate, Stephanie Townsend, with lecturer Thabo Mosala. The case is not intended to demonstrate effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation; it is intended for classroom discussion only. Copyright ©2006 Graduate School of Business Administration, University of the Witwatersrand. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any format - electronic, photocopied, or otherwise - without consent from Wits Business School. To request permission, apply to: The Case Centre, Wits Business School, PO Box 98, Wits 2050, South Africa, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Capitec: Low-Cost Banking for Joe Average
By 1999 the government realised that the 1992 exemption had created an environment conducive to high interest rates and abusive practices. The Micro Finance Regulatory Council (MFRC) was therefore established under the 1999 Usury Act Exemption Notice to protect consumers by regulating those institutions lending under the unrestricted interest rate window. The Exemption Notice made it compulsory for microlenders (all those who extended credit up to a new maximum of R10,000.00, at rates above the statutory cap) to register with the MFRC. In 2002 it became...