Stephen Cranston Associate editor
Sandile Shabalala: New bank on the block. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Sandile Shabalala: New bank on the block. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

It can’t be easy for top executives to leave their comfortable billets at established businesses to create or join start-ups. Sandile Shabalala blazed a trail when he left Nedbank Business Banking to set up SA’s first truly digital bank since the now defunct 20Twenty started in 2003.

Shabalala is the CEO of what is officially called CBSA/Tyme but will be known to the public as TymeDigital. It is a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, one of the world’s 10 largest retail banks by market capitalisation.

He joined CBSA/Tyme in October 2016. It kept a low profile until last month, when it received a full banking licence.

With the licence in hand the bank can begin its preparation. TymeDigital already offers money transfer facilities, and Shabalala says it will have a transactional rather than a loan-driven focus. And he is confident that the failure of 20Twenty will not be a bad omen for Tyme.

"That business came in at least a decade ahead of its time. Client familiarity with digital transactions is now far more entrenched," Shabalala says.

Tyme is opening its doors with a distribution network of 700 through Pick n Pay and Boxer stores, Shabalala says, so it will have a human face. People in black-and-yellow Tyme T-shirts will soon be part of the furniture at Pick n Pay. The combined data of the new bank and that of Pick n Pay’s huge Smart Shopper loyalty programme should be powerful.

Shabalala says Tyme will have no branches in the traditional sense. It will be focused on underserved lower-income customers, and will devote resources to financial education.

At Nedbank Business Banking Shabalala was responsible for developing the business banking strategy, which included, among other things, client growth, acquisition and retention strategies. This will be useful knowledge in his new job, though he admits Tyme does not have aspirations to serve businesses outside the small-business sector.

Shabalala also has a good idea of how big banks work at a holdings level, having participated in the Nedbank Group’s strategic planning and formulation process. He has extensive experience in banking and over 26 years held various positions at Nedbank in other roles, including in business banking, sales, credit, small and medium enterprises and finance.

He has also tried his hand at another field, spending a year at Telkom as a financial and costing consultant from 1999 to 2000, but he missed the banking world and moved back to Nedbank.

Shabalala served as chairman and a member of various committees in Nedbank’s retail and business banking cluster, as well as at the Nedbank Group.

He completed the strategic management in banking programme at Insead Business School in France as well as an executive management programme at Harvard.

cranstons@fm.co.za

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