Two serious new players are about to enter the banking market in SA, Tyme Bank and Discovery Bank, amid, it must be said, some scepticism. Will they succeed? I have to say I’m moderately optimistic despite SA’s history of banking crises, on the stipulation that the economy as a whole remains more or less intact. If it does not — and there is a good chance it won’t — then all bets are off. But all else being equal, here is my argument for being fairly positive. First, both banks are setting out their stores in interesting new ways. Tyme is aiming at the low end of the market and linking itself closely with Pick n Pay, which I think is very smart. Millions of South Africans are now enormously reliant on the state cash handout system, which we for some reason call “social pensions”. That cash is spent largely in supermarkets. Bringing these financial services and supermarkets more or less under the same roof is a way for Tyme to get its foot in the door. It also fits in an odd way into...

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