South Africa’s state bank has R7.6 billion in deposits – down R500 million in a year

South Africa’s Postbank had R7.6 billion in deposits at the end of 2023, a decline of nearly R500 million in 12 months, as the government aims to make it the first fully-fledged state-run bank. 

This was revealed in the South African Reserve Bank’s first Quarterly Bulletin for 2024, which outlines the country’s financial landscape, monetary policy, and fiscal policy. 

As part of this, the Reserve Bank details the assets and liabilities of the country’s commercial banks, mutual banks, and Postbank. 

This analysis shows that Postbank had R7.6 billion in assets at the end of December 2023, following a steady decline throughout the year. 

These deposits are intended to form the basis of a state bank in South Africa, something the ruling ANC has been touting for years. 

Instead of creating a new bank from scratch, the government plans to turn the Postbank into a full-service financial services provider. 

President Ramaphosa signed the Postbank Amendment Bill into law in September last year, formally transferring the Postbank’s shareholding from the embattled South African Post Office to the government. 

This allowed for the creation of a Bank Controlling Company, opening the way for Postbank to become a fully-fledged state-owned banking operation in the country.

While Postbank has always offered minor banking services through the Post Office, it was strictly a savings subsidiary, unable to offer transactional accounts, credit, and other banking services.

With the Postbank Amendment Act in effect, the group, now independent of the Post Office, can move forward as a state-owned entity, apply for a new banking licence from the South African Reserve Bank, and launch full banking operations.

The bank previously noted that when the new Act comes into law, it will start resubmitting and finalising its section 16 application to become a registered state-owned bank in the 2024/25 financial year. 

Postbank’s primary objective will be to offer affordable financial services to communities not catered to by traditional retail banking, SMEs, and the public sector.

In its annual performance plan for 2023, the bank acknowledged that it would be entering an already highly competitive banking market.

Postbank is ‘late to the party’ for offering affordable services provided by smaller banks and business services offered by larger legacy banks.

Compared to large banks – Absa, FNB, Standard Bank, Capitec and Nedbank – Postbank argued that there is a small overlap of target customers between low, medium, and high-income customers.

Compared to smaller banks – TymeBank, African Bank, Bank Zero and Grindrod Bank – Postbank said there is a greater overlap in target customers and economic segments with grant recipients, low-income earners and ‘Post box’ accounts already targeted by these firms.

Despite this crossover, the group says about 6.5 million people in South Africa are unbanked, and 15 million existing customers are under-banked. 

In addition, about R12 billion were found outside the formal banking system, excluding stokvels, which can be addressed.

The group sees a lot of opportunity in the SMME sector, which is quickly becoming the key focus of South Africa’s other big banks.

However, despite its ambitions, the bank faces several headwinds ahead of its planned launch.

Postbank recorded a net loss of R2 billion during the 2022/23 financial year, following a R302 million profit in the last year.

The bank attributed the loss to the payment of grants, which it took over in 2022. Significant investment in manpower and supplementary services for physical cash payments were required.

Nevertheless, the bank said that it remains solvent, given the value of assets, even with the loss.


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