Steward Bank, Zimbabwe’s largest bank by depositors, said yesterday it recorded a net profit of $ 386 million in historical terms for the full year through February 28, 2021, up from $ 57 million posted at during the previous corresponding period.

Courage Mashavave, chief executive of the bank, said the profit surge came mainly from net interest income, which rose 520% ​​from $ 60.6 million to $ 376 million due to the increased bank lending activity and rising market interest rates. .

In the 12 months leading up to February 2021, the bank financed clean energy projects and also provided structured finance for corporate clients.

“The bank’s historic net operating income increased 481% to close at $ 2.7 billion. However, inflation-adjusted net operating income declined 33% from a year ago, ”Mashavave said in the bank’s financial statement released over the weekend.

He said the decline in net operating income was largely related to the increased cost structure related to the realignment of the bank’s system and talent, designed to accommodate the system upgrade. basic bank of the financial institution.

Mashavave noted that this metric is expected to improve the following year due to the benefits the bank is getting from its digital transformation plans.

In inflation-adjusted terms, the banking unit saw its net interest income decline by 17% from the previous year, while unfunded income followed a similar path, declining by 26%.

“The digital banking revenue line has grown from ZW $ 237 million in 2020 to $ 980 million, largely thanks to the bank’s digital innovations that range from USSD banking services to Visa card integrations and customer resourcefulness. outlets, ”he said.

Steward Bank’s unfunded income also improved significantly by 367% year-over-year, driven by transformational innovations around traditional banking services, including automated opening of foreign currency accounts.

As part of the strategies to address customer issues and emerging needs, the bank deployed innovations such as self-service machines to enable customers to transact without human intervention during the reporting period.

“The main objective of these innovations was to protect the client from the threat of the coronavirus which feeds on human contact. In addition, the bank has embarked on an aggressive campaign to attract customers to its branches and start transacting on its digital platforms, ”Mashavave said.

The bank’s “Go Digital” campaign saw various value-added services rolled out around the bank’s products, including Visa Direct and Visa Mobile Application, which eliminated the need for Visa card-related customer inquiries requiring payment. human interventions.

Mashavave said Steward Bank is now looking to add more of its branch-related services to its mobile platforms as it pursues its aspirations to become a fully-fledged digital bank.

“The need to become a digital bank has gone from being an option to (becoming) a necessity as it complements the new standard of doing business that is heavily anchored on digital transformation,” he said.

Mashavave added that the company will leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to anticipate and respond to customer needs, as well as to address inefficiencies related to human error and intervention.

“The customer will be seen in 360 degrees to better meet their underlying banking needs,” he said.