Bank Zero’s big plans to catch up — including adding a vital missing feature

Bank Zero is planning to officially exit its beta period and roll out several significant new features in the coming months. However, it is facing an uphill battle against more established digital banks seeing exponential customer growth.

The zero-monthly-cost bank launched to the public in October 2021, following a brief testing period where users had to get on a waiting list to join.

In a recent update to MyBroadband, the bank said it was close to exiting beta on Android within a “few months”, with iOS lagging “just a bit” behind.

“We are receiving great feedback and suggestions from our customers with regards to our app, which help steer where to focus first,” the bank stated.

“We are constantly adding functionality and innovations, and have a busy roadmap ahead.”

One of the most requested new features on the immediate horizon is the ability to deposit cash into a Bank Zero account.

Currently, Bank Zero customers must receive money via electronic transfers from another account, making it difficult for customers or small businesses that often deal in cash.

“This is important to us and will be made available very soon. It was purely a prioritisation issue of what our developers had to focus on first,” the bank told MyBroadband.

It is also working on adding relationship banking features and more business banking innovations.

The bank said its current primary focus was on early adopters, who made for very active users.

Customer deposits and average balances were higher, while average transactions per customer were higher in volume and larger in value than anticipated.

The bank has reported good revenue growth from interest and non-interest income.

“The interest rate hike environment helps tremendously as our interest margin improves without any downside from bad debt losses, as we don’t do lending,” Bank Zero stated,

The bank has also noticed greater uptake from businesses than expected.

“No bank in South Africa — other than Bank Zero — currently offers a Zero fee account for Pty Ltd [private companies],” the bank said.

“Businesses can load their owners or officials, set up their own authorisation chains, maintain their mandates, and more, all on one screen.”

“They can change it easily too, without having to send in special forms or the like. We’re giving full ownership to the mandated official.”

The bank added it gave businesses great transparency because they receive free notifications of business payments made, changes in business profile details, and more — helping prevent fraud to which companies often fall victim.

Bank Zero app main screen (left), EFT payment screen (middle), and Card Settings (right)

While South Africa’s major banks now all offer zero-monthly-fee accounts, Bank Zero said its product was not comparable.

“If one had to compare to only the low-cost accounts from major banks — these accounts tend to provide limited functionality — with customers subsequently having to upgrade to higher-level accounts at higher fees to access more functionality.”

“At Bank Zero, all customers have access to all functionality at zero cost.”

It also explained it had several unique features that made it stand out from the rest, including alerting customers to possible rogue debit orders, its card subscriptions feature, uploading documents to link to a transaction, and the ability for under 16s to create their own banking profiles.

The bank also highlighted its patented card technology that protects customers from fraud.

Its other standout feature is friending people to an account — useful for when a group of people are saving together and want complete transparency of contributions and payments made.

Looking at the numbers

Bank Zero said it would only share customer numbers later and was still targeting 100,000 as its break-even point.

Given that Bank Zero is an app-only bank, all its customers have to download and install it from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

The number of app installations could therefore provide a rough idea of how many customers the bank has.

According to the Google Play Store’s stats, the Android app has been downloaded 10,000+ times, which means it could have anywhere between 10,000 and 49,999 actual downloads.

The Apple App Store does not provide download numbers but does show how many reviews of the app have been posted. It has around a third of the reviews than on the Play Store.

Mirroring that proportion into the download count on the Play Store would suggest App Store installs of between 3,333 and 16,666.

Combining the figures with the Play Store’s presents a hypothetical range of 13,333 to 66,665 across both app stores. For reference, TymeBank recently said it was adding around 130,000 customers per month.

The table below shows how Bank Zero’s Google Play Store and Apple App Store numbers stack up against Discovery Bank and TymeBank, as of Monday, 13 June 2022.

South African digital banks by the numbers
Bank Confirmed customers Google Play Store
Apple App Store + Google Play Store
review numbers
Apple App Store
Finance category ranking
Bank Zero Unknown 10,000+ 132 #132
Discovery Bank 400,000 500,000+ 25,000 + #3
TymeBank 4,000,000 1,000,000+ 53,677+ #8

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Bank Zero’s big plans to catch up — including adding a vital missing feature