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SARB grants Bank Zero forex exchange licence

Read time 2min 40sec

Digital-only bank, Bank Zero, has been appointed as a restricted authorised dealer in forex exchange by the South African Reserve Bank.

The new licence, according to the bank, allows Bank Zero cards to be used for international trade, enabling customers to conduct foreign purchases either online or physically.

This comes as SA’s newest digital bank finalises its preparations to officially launch to the public before the end of this year, after rolling out end-to-end live beta testing last month.

The bank, which is entirely app-driven, started its closed beta testing phase late last year, when it introduced its card go-live and rigorous health-checks, such as simulated card attacks, card fraud detection and retailer readiness among a small group of citizens.

CEO Yatin Narsai told ITWeb that the new licence is key to any South African bank card offering.

“Bank Zero’s focus is on the use of its debit cards anywhere in the world, which is what the restricted authorised dealer licence allows.

“In the digital world, the lines between local and global merchants are becoming blurred, reflecting an increasingly global village. Business and individual customers operate in a fast-moving world where it’s becoming harder and harder to discern whether a card purchase is local or foreign. Without this licence, we would’ve had to block foreign purchases – this would create customer frustration,” explains Narsai.

Responding to ITWeb’ s query about the possibility of offering forex investment products, Narsai says other forex products will become available only after public operations resume.

Bank Zero, which received its licence one year after fellow competitors TymeBank and Discovery Bank, is co-founded by its seven investors, including former First National Bank CEO Michael Jordaan, who is chairman, and banking innovator, Narsai.

The five other, unnamed investors are actively involved in daily operational management of the bank, without earning salaries.

Described as “a unique and fresh approach to banking”, Bank Zero promises added security and transparency.

The bank says it does not have entry-level accounts, but offers a "segment-agnostic" approach, which provides customers with access to all features, such as low banking fees, free rogue debit order protection and seamless integration with Xero accounting software for business clients.

Discussing the measures taken by the bank to protect customers trading internationally from cyber fraud, Narsai points out that Bank Zero’s debit card has security-tight patented card technology.

“The Bank Zero debit card has a special security patent to protect cardholders. Most international transactions by Bank Zero cardholders will be done online and that is specifically addressed with Bank Zero’s security focus,” adds Narsai.

Its patented card technology also ensures the 16-digit card number no longer needs to change each time a card is replaced, meaning card details for digital services (such as Netflix or Uber) don't have to be reset, he concludes.

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