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Sasfin introduces digital banking platform for SMEs

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Financial services firm Sasfin is the latest banker to add a small-and-medium sized enterprise-focused digital banking platform, which aims to help entrepreneurs to accelerate their businesses by making finance-related administration seamless.

The listed financial services group says B\\YOND was created to fulfil the banking needs of its own SME clients as well as those of businesses "neglected" by their larger competitors.

Sasfin CEO Michael Sassoon explained that although the other bigger banks in SA have mastered the art of dealing with small clients - where everything is completely automated - or with very large corporates, they struggle to deal with SMEs.

"Small businesses, which usually have niche nuances, often get stuck in a branch or get stuck in a retail banking platform. We have spent the last three years building B\\YOND to address their struggles.

"Sasfin has always existed to serve the entrepreneur and investor, the two key drivers of the South African economy and it bothers us that there is such a high failure rate of entrepreneurs in our country. We are really focused on that segment of the market - which we think has been neglected for too long in South Africa."

A study by research firm Javelin Strategy & Research, titled 2018 Small Business Digital Banking & Payments Trends, states that access to viable mobile and digital banking technologies will also help boost financial inclusion of small to medium sized into any economy.

According to the report, development in digital banking and payments services for small businesses has lagged significantly behind consumer and commercial banking, leaving many business owners and operators managing their finances and paying suppliers on platforms that are ill-fitting and inadequate.

Sassoon adds that the Internet banking platform offers basic analytics functionalities to aid SMEs with cash management, as well as SARS-compliant payroll management services, along with personalised invoicing capabilities.

The intuitive dashboard gives the business a number of important indicators on its financial position - for example the burn rate per month, shows the average on how much money is spent in a set period, while the cash runways also help indicate how many days or months the business can sustain the average monthly expenses, he says.

According to the banking group, B\\YOND is the first South African digital banking platform through which companies can create and submit account applications for multiple stakeholders without any of the stakeholders having to physically go to a branch.

"Businesses with multiple shareholders and directors can apply online, by uploading documents and signing the application digitally - eliminating the time spent at physical branches."

The banking group has also partnered with small business financier and payment manager Payabill to enhance its digital offering.

Last year, fellow banker FNB Business announced its plans to increase and diversify its existing levels of support for SMEs. Speaking at the time, CEO of FNB Business Mike Vacy-Lyle, said the bank is committed to "providing real value to customers through the provision of non-traditional banking solutions like Instant Accounting, Payroll and BEE accreditation; cloud-based document management solutions; CIPC registrations and maintenance, to mention a few".

To date the bank has established the FNB Business Instant Solutions which includes a suite of offerings including an accounting system, which also affords payroll administration, invoicing functionality, cash management and budgeting free of charge to the entrepreneur.

"These offerings are making a significant difference, with 185 000 businesses availing of Instant Solutions and more than 3 000 CIPC applications being facilitated monthly. Approximately 22 000 business accounts are opened monthly, with more than half of them being held for black-owned businesses. FNB's automated credit environment alleviates the complexities normally encountered by SMEs when accessing credit, allowing for unsecured credit applications online," he said.

Nedbank, through its small business services division, has Finfind, an online one-stop solution for access to finance and banking for small businesses.

"The solution provides business owners seeking funding with the ability to improve their readiness for finance, including educational tools and links to various financial solutions that could best suit their financial needs. The partnership with Finfind extends this value further by linking potential clients to a dedicated team in Nedbank retail relationship banking, to assist clients by facilitating their requests in the most effective way. Clients will also receive the benefit of a dedicated relationship banker that will serve as a business advisor for both their business and personal financial needs," said the bank.

According to Small Enterprise Development Agency, there are as many as 5.6 million SMEs in SA as of June 2017, which contribute to an estimated 34% of the gross domestic product.

The SA National Development Plan has tasked the SME community to provide 90% of new employment opportunities by 2030.

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