Jan Pilbauer. CEO at BankservAfrica.
Jan Pilbauer. CEO at BankservAfrica.
Image: Supplied

In this edition of the Business Day Spotlight, we’re looking at the development of digital payments infrastructure in SA.

Host Mudiwa Gavaza is joined by Jan Pilbauer, CEO at BankservAfrica. 

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BankservAfrica is the largest automated payments clearing house in Africa. The business clears and processes bank card, ATM and EFT transactions between the country’s banks as part of the SA National Payment System. 

The company is a joint venture between the country’s largest banks — FirstRand, Standard Bank, Absa and Nedbank — each holding 23.125% of the equity. The balance of ownership is held by Bidvest, Capitec, Citibank SA, Investec, Mercantile Bank, Grobank, Sasfin and Ubank. 

Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI.
Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI.

The discussion starts with Pilbauer reflecting on his recent career and interest in payments. In August, he was appointed CEO of BankservAfrica, taking over from Chris Hamilton, who had been in the role since 2016. Before joining the company, Pilbauer says he played a key role in the ongoing modernisation of the Canadian core clearing and settlement payments infrastructure as the executive director at Payments Canada. He has also held senior positions at central banks, including the Bank of Canada and Czech National Bank. 

One of Pilbauer’s central focuses is digital payments. 

Surprisingly, he says nine out of 10 payments made in SA are still in cash. Despite Covid-19 having done much to reduce the use of physical banknotes and coins — as that was seen as a possible vector for the disease — a truly cashless world is still a long way away, at least for SA.

Pilbauer says the time it takes to settle interbank transactions is a significant challenge. Sending your friend R1,000 from Standard Bank to FNB still takes two to three working days, and could attract a R50 fee for immediate settlement, which is unattractive for many South Africans. 

Pilbauer says BankservAfrica is about to implement a rapid payments programme, which seeks to make digital payments a viable medium of exchange throughout SA.  

The discussion also touches on BankservAfrica’s business model, relationship with banks and SA Reserve Bank, the number of transactions processed by their systems each day, ways in which payments can be improved in SA, the Rapid Payments Program and cross-border payments. 

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 Business Day Spotlight is a MultimediaLIVE production.

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