Leading financial services institution, Stanbic Bank, has set up nine remote branches at tobacco auction floors throughout the country to enable ease of access to funds for tobacco farmers during the tobacco selling season due to kick off this month.
The implants, as the branches are termed, are geared to serve the banking needs of tobacco farmers countrywide following the decentralization of tobacco auction floors due to the COVID 19 pandemic.
Stanbic Bank's Executive Director for Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Betty Murambadoro, said the institution responded to the clarion call by its corporate customers to open implants in areas where there is high concentration of farmers for ease of transacting.
The implants constructed in partnership with some of the bank's tobacco clients are located at selected Zimbabwe Leaf Tobacco (ZLT), Mashonaland Tobacco Company (MTC) and Boostafrica (Boost) branches in Karoi, Rusape, Mvurwi, Marondera and Harare, all of which are set to be operational by the beginning of the tobacco selling season.
"The implants are seasonal and are set to go a long way in improving operational efficiencies as the country grapples with the relentless COVID 19 which has led to the decentralization of tobacco auction floors", said Murambadoro.
She said the setting up of the implants at customers' strategic sites is in line with Stanbic Bank's distribution strategy and vision which seeks to help its customers perform everyday transactions at a convenient time and place.
Stanbic Bank is the biggest financial investment player in Zimbabwe's tobacco industry with "USD405m offshore and USD20m onshore tobacco facilities currently being enjoyed by the main tobacco merchants and primary producers linked to the major tobacco merchants and their value chains. Tobacco production is a key component of the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe and contributes 12% of the GDP," as contextualized by Murambadoro.
Speaking on the matter, the bank's Head of Personal and Business Banking (PBB), Patson Mahatchi, expressed how they are committed to providing value added services for their clients by implementing solutions that drive the flawless continuation of their business, making Customer Centricity a key strategy in this initiative.
"All the farmers will be registered on our digital banking channels after they open tobacco farmers accounts with the bank at these different locations. The accounts are tailored to cater for the specific needs of tobacco farmers. Plans are also underway to ensure that ATMs dispensing USD and ZWL be made available at the implants to increase ease of access to cash for the farmers by the next tobacco season," said Mahatchi.
He added that it is also the bank's obligation to help with minimizing transport costs where possible, and encouraging social distancing by reducing overcrowding during the pandemic through the commissioning of these implants.
Tobacco is a strategic export crop in Zimbabwe which generates foreign currency earnings in excess of USD900 million annually.