Tauriq Keraan, CEO of TymeBank, at the offices in Rosebank. Picture: Freddy Mavunda
Tauriq Keraan, CEO of TymeBank, at the offices in Rosebank. Picture: Freddy Mavunda

Fuelled by his humble beginnings, the newly appointed CEO of TymeBank is determined to widen banking reach to financially excluded communities.

Tauriq Keraan, who replaced Sandile Shabalala as CEO this month, says: "Most people are still heavily underserved by banks. A lot of people still don’t save formally, or they borrow from predatory sources — and it doesn’t work out for them."

As he strides into TymeBank’s reception area, he could be mistaken for just another visitor to the upstart bank’s Rosebank office.

This is definitely not banking as it used to be.

Asked about his appointment, he says: "When the announcement was made … I told everyone there might be a bit of attention now on me by virtue of where we find ourselves.

"But this business has never been about any individual. It’s about giving ordinary South Africans access to financial services."

Keraan, 40, was born and raised in the Bo-Kaap in Cape Town. The struggles he saw around him made him want to better the financial circumstances of people.

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"You’d have grandparents living in backyards with their grandchildren because they couldn’t get access to home finance; parents not being able to leave the houses they lived in for most of their lives to their children because they can’t get access to a home loan.

"I think that’s really where the genesis of my interest in financial inclusion started," says Keraan, a father of two.

The first time he got to work on projects directly related to financial inclusion was in 2007, when he was seconded to Standard Bank from Deloitte.

There he helped build community banking, later known as AccessBanking.

He was also involved in a project on taxi finance, which had a personal link for him because two of his uncles were taxi operators who could not get access to vehicle finance.

"The taxi industry transports 65% of this country’s population. Imagine if all those millions of South Africans could be transported in safer vehicles.

"Wouldn’t that be a great outcome for our country?"

After the Standard Bank stint, Keraan made his way into the world of digital banking, joining Coen Jonker and Tjaart van der Walt in 2012 to create Tyme.

The fintech project was aimed at helping more South Africans "gain access to financial services in an affordable and dignified manner".

In 2015, Tyme was bought by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the 10th-biggest bank in the world by market capitalisation.

Going from a promising idea to a real contender in short order was no small feat.

"We had to sell the business, conclude that and on the next day be ready to launch the bank," says Keraan.

"This is what, for me, has taken the spirit … and the tenacity to another level."

TymeBank’s growth has been rapid: from 100,000 customers soon after its launch in February this year to 650,000 now, at a rate of around 110,000 customers a month.

Keraan is careful not to bite off more than he thinks the bank can chew.

"We need to do this responsibly. Touch wood, we will have a million customers in our books before the end of this year."

That means a softly-softly approach to writing loans. TymeBank has, in fact, written fewer than a dozen, mainly to its own staff. That will change.

"To fully meet our role in society, we need to make the capital available to society as well. So lending is absolutely part of our strategy," he says.