by Sabrina Forbes. “There’s been this wave of tech-fueled market disruption across a range of industries but… the industry that is certainly right here right now and has become the flavour of the month, in terms of everyone is aware of it, is digital banking. And it’s not just in South Africa; this is a global phenomenon.” So says Luisa Mazinter, chief marketing officer at TymeBank, a new disruptor to the South African banking scene.

TymeBank logo“They call them neo-banks,” she continues. “Essentially, these are banks that are driven by technology as opposed to physical infrastructure and old legacy systems. It’s new tech, it’s new infrastructure, and they are unencumbered by the legacy of physical infrastructure.” She adds that it’s this surge in new neo-banks that is starting to redefine what banking is in this new tech environment.

“Wild ride”

On 28 September 2017, Tyme (Take Your Money Everywhere) was the first new banking licence to be awarded in SA in 20 years, followed closely by Discovery Bank and BankZero. It’s the beginning of a wave, according to Mazinter: “It’s been a wild ride, an incredible experience. In your lifetime you don’t get an opportunity like this, to literally launch a bank from scratch.”

Tyme was founded in 2012 out of a consulting project initiated between MTN and Deloitte. MTN was initially looking for something to help with its mobile money, and the solution that was built was soon spun off into its own separate business mid-2012. In 2015, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CommBank) acquired 100% of Tyme, renaming the business TymeDigital by Commonwealth Bank SA. In 2018, ARC Imali-Madi (RF), a financial services company, bought a 10% stake in TymeDigital and, in November of the same year, African Rainbow Capital Financial Services Holdings — the financial investment company of SA entrepreneur, Patrice Motsepe —obtained approval from the South African Reserve Bank’s Prudential Authority to acquire the 90% stake then held by CommBank. In the same month, the business name was changed to TymeBank Limited and the brand’s entire CI was overhauled.

Luisa Mazinter
Luisa Mazinter, TymeBank CMO.

For Mazinter, 2018 was all about re-establishing the business and setting it up for its 2019 launch, which officially kicked off with above-the-line advertising on 24 February 2019. The acquisition journey has delivered a massive learning curve for this startup bank, especially when it comes to the compliance-related structure of the business, that she believes is an invaluable part of where TymeBank team is now, and where it believes it can go.

When asked about the public uptake of TymeBank, Mazinter admits that expectations were kept low, especially straight after launch. Towards the end of March 2019, the bank was sitting on over 150 000 customers but, according to BusinessTech, it should reach 500 000 by the end of this month and 1m by year-end — an impressive trajectory and one that the brand is really excited about, according to Mazinter.

Disruptive value proposition

“I think it all comes down to the value proposition, which truly is a disruptive one that’s unique in the market. We knew we had to come in and relook the norms of the industry and look at how do we create value for customers? Where are the opportunities to disrupt, to reinvent, and to actually streamline the process? One of the core pillars of our brand is stripping away all the nonsense and actually focusing on humanness. It’s about focusing on authentic stories and real people and that doesn’t happen in the banking industry. It’s inaccessible and it’s not real and we thought: ‘We’ve got to get away from all of that, we’ve got to completely reinvent a voice and a visual identity that will stand out.’ If we’re disrupting technically, we need to disrupt emotionally,” she says.

Mazinter mentions key pillars are fundamental to keeping the brand different from its competitors and positioning it in such a way that drives this challenger bank to continue to grow. One of these is ease of use.

The aim was to make it so simple to open a bank account that it could happen in under five minutes. With a partnership with the Pick n Pay Group resulting in TymeBank kiosks at Pick n Pay and Boxer stores nationwide, to open an account, all that is needed is one’s cell phone number, identify number and thumbprint. The kiosks are connected to Home Affairs and a number of other databases to verify identity through biometrics. Within minutes, a personalised debit card is issued that’s ready to use, and with TymeBank’s system being integrated with 14 000 till points at Pick n Pay and Boxer stores, cash deposits may instantly be made.

There are no monthly fees on the account and cash withdrawals at Pick n Pay and Boxer stores are free, too. “There’s nowhere else in the world that you can literally walk up to a kiosk and open a fully FICA compliant bank account. What we’ve tried to do is strip all the complexity out of the tech to make it as simple as possible but also as transparent as possible. Again, one of the things is this opacity as it relates to bank fees and charges and how banks work, and we’re trying to make it as clear and as open as possible,” reiterates Mazinter.

“Human potential”

Launch ad from King James Group, directed by Paul Ward of 0307.

Each TymeBank account comes bundled with a Goal Save tool which offers customers up to 10 savings pockets that they can name themselves and easily put money into; these pockets are entirely secure and can’t be touched by unauthorised debit orders. Mazinter says that this is just one of the many ways TymeBank is trying to encourage a savings culture in SA: “We’re the bank that really sees your potential and is willing to back it. We look at human potential as an incredible asset of this country and we want to give people access in a way that they’ve never had before.”

Delivering cards and taking cash are the only two things in banking you can’t digitally, which is why she believes its partnership with the Pick n Pay Group has been so successful. “From a cash-handling perspective, we have the equivalent to some of our competitors’, if not more points of presence for cash handling in the country,” she says.

Another pillar is price and according to Mazinter, TymeBank is the lowest-cost bank in the market by around 50%. “Because we don’t have the physical infrastructure, we don’t have all these costs that are associated with running a traditional bank; what we do is we pass all those savings back to our customers and look at every single way we possibly can squeeze value to give our customers. So, whatever we can give free, we will give free.” she says.

The bank also rewards customers for being customers through its deep relationship with PnP Smart Shopper, allowing customers to earn Smart Shopper points with any transaction anywhere, not just at Pick n Pay.

Data is core

Data is a core part of TymeBank, which has a full team of data scientists working with each element of the data collected to discover points of friction and develop ways to make the customer user experience smoother. By looking at drop off points, ways can be found to improve conversions. For Mazinter, it’s about asking how to help people to take more control of their financial futures. She believes that the better it know its customers, the more value may be added: “Because we don’t with this legacy infrastructure and we’re not sitting with silos of data that are sitting in different systems within the business, we can be a lot more agile around data and can use the systems that we have to really understand customer’s needs in order to deliver the best financial solution for them.”

According to her, while trends in banking and marketing might differ, there’s definitely an overlap. From a marketing perspective, the whole concept of brand visibility and cognition is starting to initiate scientific studies. These are happening worldwide in order to try and figure out how the brain works.

Pointing to her smartphone, she says, “It’s unbelievable to see how this device [has] shifted the way we consume media, the way we consume content. Old assumptions that the industry made really are out the window with this new research. I always like to say that marketing is absolutely at the intersection of science and art. You’ve got to be able to do both well. As a marketer, you need to be able to understand data at its core; you need to be able to look at data to extract behavioural insights and profile things that are going to help you to be more relevant to your customers but, at the same time, you need to know how to tell stories to make emotional connections.

“We are emotional beings and we don’t think with our rational brains. Many great marketers have known this intuitively; what’s exciting is that science is catching up. It’s absolutely fascinating to see how assumptions are being turned on their heads by actually look at how people respond and how they behave.”

What the future holds

All of this is something that excites Mazinter: “I don’t see technology and its evolution as scary. I love it! I love what the potential of the future holds. I love what we can only dream about today is actually possible in the future. I’d love to be a marketer in 50 years’ time.”

Sabrina Forbes“#AgencyFocus/#BrandFocus” is an ongoing weekly series updating the market on ad agency performance and brand, including innovation, initiatives, the work, awards, people and business performance.

Sabrina Forbes (IG) is an experienced writer covering the food, health, lifestyle, beverage, marketing and media industries. She runs her own full-stack web/app development and digital-first content creation company. For more, go to She is a contributing writer to

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