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Business banking should be viewed as a business enabler rather than just a money lender

We know the future of our country will be built by innovative small businesses and that the country needs business banking that meets the needs and aspirations of these South African entrepreneurs, communities and households.
Source: Supplied. Zwelibanzi Manyathi, African Bank's group executive: business banking.
Source: Supplied. Zwelibanzi Manyathi, African Bank's group executive: business banking.

These individuals and enterprises are the engine room of the country’s economy, but they are often neglected when it comes to bespoke offerings that further empower them for success and growth.

We have to find the sweet spot in that equation and to bring the so-called “trader market” into the ecosystems of larger companies.

There is no doubt that traditional bankers and financial institutions want to engage, but they baulk at the lack of expertise and financial and logistical systems they often encounter with start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Small businesses in turn don’t want to deal with these administrative headaches in addition to the responsibilities they have with running their daily operations.

Instead of focusing on growing the business, entrepreneurs often battle to deal with a raft of regulations and administration, and take their eye off the ball. They might have a great idea but no detailed plan; they tend to see careful record-keeping as a nuisance; their ideas are not subjected to robust challenge; they don’t separate the financial position of their company with their personal position; there is a lack of key skills in certain areas; and a perennial lack of access to funding.

Entrepreneurs who should be expending energy on building and planning their businesses, spend too much time on issues like payroll, HR and dealing with tax-related matters. I have been in the trenches of running a small business and I know the pain, anxiety and sleepless nights that come with the job.

What these small businesses really need – in addition to banks and funders – is trusted advisors across all facets of their businesses, offering advice in disciplines from demand management to stock control and distribution. A bank is perfectly positioned to offer this additional service.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises also fail in the initial stages because banks do not help sufficiently at that crucial juncture and ignore a developmental approach that would create a clear glidepath for businesses to succeed.

I believe there is an opportunity for us to fill the unmined space that exists in the middle of the business pyramid and to include smaller businesses at the same time with a digital-first and data-driven approach.

In the case of a growing or start-up micro-enterprise for example – the bank could play a vital role in predictive analytics to ensure that stock is managed properly.

Banks can offer better fee structures, easier processes for loans and diversity in the types of services offered.

I want to see a business banking sector filled with talent that knows the hardship of small businesses. Now is the time to leverage that knowledge and pay it forward.

Business banking is the adhesive that holds your business together in good times and in bad, and should be viewed as a business enabler rather than just a money lender.

I would say to prospective business clients that they need to be audacious enough to believe in themselves and the potential of their enterprise, and to look for a partner who understands their journey.

About Zwelibanzi Manyathi

Zwelibanzi Manyathi is African Bank's group executive: business banking.

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