Financial services used to change slowly. Twenty years after Douw Steyn launched the direct-to-consumer insurer Auto & General in 1985, insurance was still largely sold through brokers, and index funds still accounted for a tiny portion of investment assets. Banking changed even more slowly. More than 25 years after the launch of the internet, most banks still distribute a large portion of their products through a branch network. These branches will still be perfectly recognisable to anyone visiting SA for the first time in 30 years. None of the big banks will rock the boat; they want to protect their collective income. That era has come to an end. In the past few months, three new banks have launched with a leaner, cheaper business model that will change the face of SA banking — Discovery Bank, TymeBank and Bank Zero. It’s been a long time coming. After Saambou and Fidelity Bank collapsed in the early 2000s, the SA Reserve Bank was for a long time reluctant to let new banks open. B...

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