Discovery Bank
  • People keen to join Discovery Bank have been getting increasingly agitated at not being let in.
  • Despite launching with some fanfare in March, the bank has taken on only 1,000 customers to date.
  • Discovery says nothing went wrong, things just took a while to get right. Now it promises to be taking on large numbers of customers – by August.
  • For more stories, go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.

Discovery Bank says it took "longer than planned" to get to the point where it can take on a lot of new customers, but it is now ready to scale up – in a "phased way" – beyond the 1,000 customers it has banked since March. 

But only in August, says the bank, does it expect to be taking on clients in seriously big numbers, with a plan to grow by up to 1,000 per day. 

"We are a few months late," says Discovery group CEO Adrian Gore. "We're not troubled by that."

See also: Discovery Bank is building its own ‘e-money structure’ – and it is definitely not like eBucks

Eager Discovery clients have been asking increasingly agitated questions about why, since the bank launched in March, they have not been allowed in.

The delays have turned into a reputation problem that promises to linger; as of Thursday the Android version of the Discovery Bank app had an average rating of 2.5 stars out of 5, thanks to many angry 1-star reviews from those who have not yet been allowed to join.

Gore says there is no particular problem that caused delays, no issues with suppliers, regulators, or technology; it simply took a while to get things just right.

"This is a bank, a highly complex institution being built," he told Business Insider South Africa.

That bank is being built for a high-income client base that "expect a lot", Gore says, so "from the get-go we have to offer a pretty substantial bank".

Discovery Bank has been trying to ensure you can open an account in just five minutes, entirely on your cellphone, a problem it says it now has licked. It also has a stretch target of having every function available on its app within three clicks or fewer.

The broader Discovery group counts 80% of the richer segment of the South African population, in living-standard measurement groups 8 to 10, among its customers. Discovery Bank says it has a list of 80,000 people who want accounts with it, on top of the 300,000 or so holders of Discovery credit cards, currently administered by First National Bank.

Should it successfully migrate all of those cards and open accounts for everyone who showed interest, Discovery Bank would immediately be bigger than fellow newcomer TymeBank.

While TymeBank estimates it will need around two million customers to break even, Discovery says its bank will pay for itself at somewhere around 500,000 to 600,000 clients.

See also: New competition may be launching – but South Africa’s Big 5 banks actually increased their dominance last year

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