An app-based bank is coming

Bank Zero appears set to accelerate the evolution of the South African banking industry by offering a fresh take on banking and highly competitive fees.

The bank — the brainchild of tech entrepreneurs and banking innovators Michael Jordaan and Yatin Narsai — has received a provisional licence from the South African Reserve Bank. It is due to launch a smartphone app, through which transactional and savings accounts can be opened and managed, in the fourth quarter.

The digital-only play, built using free open-source technology, is expected to lower banking fees thanks — in part — due to a lack of legacy systems and absence of traditional bricks and mortar branches, which will enable it to keep costs down.

“We certainly hope to come up with a very competitive structure. We do realise that we have certain disadvantages — we won’t have branches and we won’t have lending products — so we’re going to have to make an impact in the areas where we’ll play, being deposits and fee structures.

“It’s a bit too early to disclose exactly what we’re going to do because that would give competitors an advantage but we really hope to delight you and other potential South African customers when we launch toward the end of this year,” said Jordaan, co-founder and chairman of Bank Zero, when asked whether his offering would be cheaper than that of Capitec. Of the listed banks, Capitec’s offering, which includes a base fee, pay-as-you-transact charges and interest on positive account balances, is considered the most competitive.

In an attempt to nurture a savings culture, the bank is to offer attractive interest rates on deposits and has chosen upfront not to engage in lending.

Its target market includes individuals and businesses, which it feels are under-served by the traditional banks.

New normal
In a statement, Jordaan said the bank’s offerings would be in line with modern day realities, where the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram represent a new normal. “Why shouldn’t banks also innovate in this era of wider connectedness whilst still ensuring a robust banking value proposition? Bank Zero is addressing these realities, while employing cutting-edge technologies, minimising typical admin-intensive processes and delivering state-of-the-art security.”

Bank Zero is to operate under a mutual licence, like that of Finbond, GBS and VBS. This will allow the bank to create financial communities and give customers the opportunity to become shareholders in the bank. Bank Zero will, after breaking even, be able to issue shares along with voting rights to deposit holders.

Jordaan would not disclose the value of the capital invested in Bank Zero nor its breakeven point, saying only that it is more than adequate in relation to the the Reserve Bank’s minimum requirements. The bank is being funded by seven individuals, all of whom are seasoned banking or IT and software development professionals, and is 45% black owned.

“We are fortunate in that we didn’t have go to any institution to raise the capital. And that does allow us to take a slightly different approach to the market. It means that we can focus on the long term so we’re not just focused on chasing short-term profitability; nor are we chasing maximum profitability in the short term. We really think that there is an opportunity here to cast many of the benefits of the business model and of the technology back into the target market in South Africa.”

Although no institutions are financial backers of the bank, it will have to select one of the big four banks as a mentor bank to help it fully integrate into the payment system. Jordaan said Bank Zero has not yet selected a mentor bank but that it will do so with guidance from the Reserve Bank.

It is likely to become the fourth new bank to enter the market in 2018 alongside Discovery’s bank, Tyme Digital by Commonwealth Bank and Post Bank.

By Prinesha Naidoo for Tech Central 

Facebook kills off its own creation

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced a major revamp of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm to prioritise content shared by friends and family, and demote branded posts from publishers and businesses.

It seems that after pushing Facebook as a source of trending news, Dr. Zuckenstein is horrified by his own creation. And, after a year of trying unsuccessfully to police false and click-baity news, he’s given up on trying to control his monster — now, he’s killing it off.

Here’s how it affects the the major parties involved: publishers, Facebook, and its 2B+ users.

FB-based publishers are screwed
Publishers like Elite Daily, LAD Bible, and the approximately one jillion meme pages that rely on promoted Facebook posts to drive site traffic, will likely see a huge decrease in audience reach.

That said, most established, “premium” publishers are more balanced in their sources of Web traffic, and have been quick to highlight that Facebook doesn’t owe anything to publishers who chose to hinge their entire business on a third party platform.

In the words of Axios CEO Jim VandeHei, “Facebook is a public company that controls its own decisions… Publishers should do the same d*mn thing.”

Facebook’s market cap took a $25bn hit
In their decision to commit to “bringing people closer together,” Facebook is effectively choosing to slow their own growth for the sake of society (and their brand reputation).

Theoretically, the change means they’ll make less money off publishers and advertisers (their stock dropped 5% following the news).

In Zuck’s own words, it could also mean that people may spend less time on Facebook.

You’re gonna see a lot more of Aunt Sally’s DIY craft posts
Remember the simpler days of Facebook? You know, back when people posted innocent statuses about things they were doing like, “going to see How To Train Your Dragon! I love movie popcorn!”

Well, we can’t turn back the clock, but we will start seeing more posts from friends in our feed. With a caveat: highly shared and liked articles will still rise to the top. So the “tag a friend who needs this!” articles could still prosper.

Source: The Hustle

Is SARS coming for your Bitcoin?

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has said that it will soon provide some much-needed clarity on the tax implications for transferring and purchasing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. They have advised that traders should declare in the meantime if they need to.

eNCA spoke to SARS about the ever-growing use of cryptocurrencies in the country. While SARS is treating cryptocurrencies as part of Capital Gains Tax, head of SARS tax research Randall Carolissen said they are still exploring it further.

“Because by the very nature it lends itself to money laundering and anonymised trading, so yes we have to put in and place additional regulations. And to that end, we are going to release an interpretation note from our legal department to guide taxpayers as to their implications with respect to this Bitcoin technology,” Carolissen told eNCA

SARS revealed that it is also working with top global technology companies that are doing similar work regarding crypto and tax. With block chains being incredibly difficult to monitor, the deductions will depend on what coin is used.

“Since it’s not legal tender it is treated as an asset in your hands. And depending on your intent with this asset, it can trigger different tax instruments. It can either be a revenue nature or it could be an asset, capital gains tax in nature,” Carolissen said.”

“People need to come forward and regualise their tax affairs with us. And the guideline will also assist them with that. But as and when you submit your tax returns you must declare that as either additional income or additional asset revenue realisation that you’ve had. So it’s very important that you don’t discard that or ignore that part. Especially those people who took advantage of Bitcoin in the early stages.”

By Nic Andersen for The South African

Twitter is now finished with a several week process updating rules to curb abuse on the platform — but now the platform is refuting several undercover videos by Project Veritas trying to point fingers at the network.

On January 16, Twitter shared a statement on the latest video that suggests Twitter engineers access private direct messages, calling the project “deceptive”.

The video in question appears to be an undercover project where Project Veritas members recorded Twitter engineers — without their knowledge — while in a bar. In the video, the Twitter employees mention a machine learning system that goes through both Tweets and direct messages, while according to the video, some staff members go through the messages flagged by the machines.

The video was the third recent dig from the organization directed at Twitter, and the platform called the videos “deceptive” and “selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative.” In a statement on the direct message video, Twitter said, “We do not proactively review DMs. Period. A limited number of employees have access to such information, for legitimate work purposes, and we enforce strict access protocols for those employees.”

Twitter says the employees in the video were not speaking on behalf of Twitter at the time. Twitter’s Privacy Policy says that for direct messages, “we will store and process your communications, and information related to them.”

The video comes after another report on Twitter’s shadow-banning, and another undercover video where a Twitter engineer says they’d happily hand over President Donald Trump’s data for an investigation. Twitter also refuted both earlier videos.

While a number of individuals are using the recent videos against the platform, others are looking deeper into Project Veritas — an organization run by conservative James O’Keefe that also tried to get the Washington Post to publish fake news against a political candidate. As Twitter’s new rules result in more users getting banned from the platform, some groups aren’t happy with the switch from a platform that was previously more open, saying the changes create more bias.

Twitter, however, isn’t the only one calling the organization’s tactics deceptive. Wired suggests that the videos are part of the inevitable backlash from the new rules designed to combat abuse and eliminate hate groups and hate speech from the platform, suggesting the rules have the “alt-right” groups mad over the removal of some accounts. The video also comes after a handful of lawsuits filed against Twitter, including a complaint from one user that lost Twitter access after a post threatening to “take out” a civil rights activist. While the lawsuit is recent, the account ban happened three years ago.

The videos factor into a larger discussion as Twitter strengthens policies against abuse, and multiple social media networks struggle against fake news and now removing extremist content. No matter what side of the conversation you fall on, the “legitimate work purposes” access is a nice reminder that the internet isn’t the best place for the most private conversations.

By Hillary Grigonis for Digital Trends

The tech reckoning – and other trends for 2018

Technology is driving exponential growth and mind-blowing innovation in all areas of life, all around the world.

The tech reckoning 

Certainly, in recent years there have been concerns about rapid changes to our culture and questions about people’s ability to keep pace with those changes. But we have now lived with this generation of consumer technology long enough to all begin seeing very real downsides.

– Facial recognition and other biometrics amp up already serious privacy concerns

– Facebook and Twitter have failed to earn public trust. They’ve failed to police their platforms, letting cyber thugs in to divide the nation and affect an election. Not to mention an avalanche of extremist and offensive postings still finding their way online, despite claims of corrective action by the tech giants.

– Tech ethicist, Tristan Harris, schooled us on the addictive properties of social media, and how we are being controlled by a steady drip of “likes” and retweets — just enough to keep us hooked.

– Some research has shown that depression in teenagers is skyrocketing due to mobile phone use and social media influence.

– Alexa and Google Home are always listening—during a party, at dinner, or even in an argument with your loved ones! The possibility that voice data can be used in court as evidence is going to be the next big hurdle for these products. Where does your privacy begin and end?

– The big five – Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple – (FAMGA) have grown beyond all expectations and are coming under increasing scrutiny for all manner of business, political, and social practices. Coming face to face with a world they didn’t intend to create, Silicon Valley has created its own retreat — disconnected from the billions of “users” they court — in order to reflect on what they wrought.

What this means for business

According to Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer, trust has imploded, reaching an all-time low. Their latest report shows that “85% lack full belief in the system, this belief increases vulnerability to fear and further distrust.”

This is the climate we are in now. Brands, business, boards should take note that this sort of disillusion bleeds over into multiple categories putting loyalty, revenue and brand image at risk.

Retail singularity

The gravitational pull of Amazon continues to challenge all of retail as they struggle to innovate and morph to keep their businesses and customers from being swallowed into the void.

– Just when e-commerce looks to be the only channel, “Spending growth at mom-and-pop businesses has outpaced that of the big chains in the past 2 years”

– “Companies using print catalogs, cut through email clutter social-media saturation to help differentiate brands, sustain existing customers”

– Stores are finding new life as community spaces with live events attracting “Millennials focused on connection and community”

– Bricks and mortar are re-emerging from the black hole of e-commerce. Bonobos and Warby Parker opened physical stores over the last year and now Everlane has just announced 2 new stores. CEO Michael Preysman said “Our customers tell us all the time that they want to touch a product before they buy it. We realized we need to have stores if we’re going to grow on a national and global scale.”

– Technology continues to create amazing in-store experiences for shoppers with VR and AR.

– AI is helping us find the right clothing for every size. Among the many new developments is Start Today USA with their ZOZOSUIT that captures 15,000 measurements so you can confidently order the right size and fit from ZOZO.

– Those dash buttons will probably change into auto-replenishment, subscription services will become even more valuable as they get to know each customer better, and hotels are going to be IoT showrooms answering our every need at a mere mention.

– Micro-leases are the new legal offering that will fill empty spaces with new startups, seasonal, or experiential offerings.

What this means for business

As if Amazon weren’t threat enough, the industry-blurring mega-mergers of Amazon/Whole Foods and CVS/Aetna has more than retailers paying attention. Every big brand should be thinking about how they can be the business that responds to the entire consumer journey — or risk being eaten up by a business that will.

One thing to remember about change is that even though technology is the new shiny thing, people are still your audience and their need for personal attention, products just for them, fun sensorial experiences, confidence in their purchases and authentic community will never, ever go away. Those retailers that can keep innovating around those evergreen consumer desires will eventually win out.

By Mary Meehan for Forbes 

The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) is hoping to seize at least R50bn in 17 cases it is currently investigating related to state capture, acting head of operations advocate Knorx Molelle said on Tuesday.

In an interview with eNCA, Molelle said his team had already prioritised six matters which were before the courts, awaiting preservation orders.

“The matters are before the court and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will have court orders,” he said.

The AFU has already taken action against two Gupta-linked companies – Trillian and McKinsey – hoping to recoup R1.6bn in assets related to consultancy work done by the companies for Eskom and Transnet.

Through their engagements, Trillian had indicated a willingness to co-operate, Molelle said.

“We are quite confident that, in the next day or two, we would have recovered the funds that have been taken away.”

Assets would only be attached as a last resort, he said.

“If there is willingness with those that we are dealing with that they are prepared to make good, the actual physical removal will be a last resort.

“An engagement that we having is absolutely critical. We are sitting and resting with the comfort that should that not bare any fruits, we also identified the relevant assets from which we can recover.”

Mollelle said the matter should be finalised within the next two days.

The AFU was investigating six other matters in which they were hoping to recoup money in the current financial year, he added.

‘We are working at our utmost best’

The money would be deposited into the Criminal Asset Recovery account and reinvested into fighting crime or to the state, where needed.

Acting head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit, advocate Malini Govender, could not clearly say when individuals would be prosecuted in cases related to state capture, only commenting that it was a complicated matter that needed time for thorough investigation.

“We have only been dealing with this since March, so you cannot expect that in a month or two months we are going to take something to court. We are working at our utmost best and hardest in ensuring there is sufficient traction to get this matter to court,” she said.

The NPA – together with National Treasury, the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission and the AFU – had an 18-man team dedicated to the “eight legged” state capture investigations, she added.

Seven of the investigation’s “legs” came from former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into state capture, while the eighth stemmed from a separate complaint.

Both officials denied any interference by the National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams.

“At no stage did he give any instruction that we do not proceed. In fact, at some stage he was… anxious at what he perceived to be a slow pace,” Molelle said.

14 Gupta-linked companies and individuals to have their assets frozen

At least 14 people and entities linked to the alleged corruption by Gupta-linked company Trillian and international consultancy firm McKinsey have been identified in a preservation order obtained by the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

The AFU is going after the big shots at Trillian and McKinsey. The people named in the court order include Eric Wood, who is Trillian CEO; Trillain CFO Tebogo Leballo; Prakash Parbhoo, a partner at McKinsey; and Jean Pierre Goerges Desvaux, who is a senior partner and managing partner at McKinsey.

The court order also identifies Trillian property in the high-end business precinct Melrose Arch in Johannesburg.

Others named in the order include: Veronica Magwentshu, Thabiso Legoete, Johannes Faure, Daniel Roy, Trillian Capital Partners, Trillian Finanical Advisory, Trillian Management Consulting, Trillian Properties, Trillian Securities, McKinsey and Company Africa, and “any other person who becomes known to the applicant as having an interest in the property.

By Lizeka Tandwa and Mahlatse Mahlase for News24

Shoprite blames deflation for disappointing growth

Shoprite announced subdued growth on Tuesday, blaming deflation for its lacklustre performance.

The group increased its turnover by 6.3% for the six months to December 2017 – less than half of the 14% achieved in the same period in 2016.

CEO Pieter Engelbrecht said overall internal price deflation occurred in the last quarter, and that the slowdown in turnover growth should be viewed in the context of average grocery price inflation decelerating to 0.4% during the reporting period. It was 7.4% in the corresponding period.

Supermarkets RSA, Shoprite’s primary business, increased sales by 7.8% during a period when internal inflation fell to 0.4% for the six months compared to 7.4% in the previous corresponding period, driven mainly by a drop in the price of basic commodity items.

Shoprite said economic and trading conditions in its foreign markets remained unchanged, and as a result the group’s non-South African supermarket operating segment reported a 0.4% drop in rand terms.

The impact of lower commodity prices and the depreciation of local currencies remained prevalent in the larger economies it operates in outside South Africa, the group stated.

Shoprite’s furniture division reported increased sales of 10.8% while other operating segments, mainly driven by the OK Franchise division’s performance, saw 6.7% growth.

Engelbrecht said this was pleasing given low internal price inflation, and was in line with the group’s South African supermarket performance.

Shoprite’s interim results are scheduled for release on February 27.

Shares in Shoprite were trading at R214.54, up 0.72%, on the JSE on Tuesday.

Source: Fin24.com

Wihan Oosthuizen resigns as CEO of Office National

Wihan Oosthuizen has resigned as CEO of Office National.

Andre de Beer is acting CEO for Office National Africa until a suitable replacement has been recruited.
An official press release will be issued after Office National’s AGM at the end of January.

“In the meantime, I can assure you, it is business as usual,” says De Beer.

Five workplace changes you must adopt by 2020

Successful companies the world over are making the necessary shift of recognising the value of the workplace as a business tool to help hire and keep the best talent.

Linda Trim, director at workplace specialists Giant Leap, says that for South African companies, the overarching imperative must be to see workplace strategy as a business opportunity rather than a just a design challenge and a cost containment exercise.

With 80% of the average company’s costs tied to its talent, which is increasingly globally mobile, here are the top 5 workplace changes South African companies will need to adopt in the next 2 years to keep pace with international trends:

1. Build the ‘Internet of Workplace’
In larger companies, “Internet of Things” (IoT) integration has so far primarily been at the building level, using real-time dashboards to track workplace occupancy, building water consumption, elevator usage, temperatures and more.
“However, threads of the next stage of this are starting to emerge, “ Trim notes.

“Companies are starting to embrace everything from smartphone apps that control the window shades, to tablets in meeting rooms that enable employees to order a coffee through a virtual concierge or to adjust the temperature.”
Companies that build a workplace linked by internet connectivity – an “Internet of Workplace” – will leverage devices, furniture and environments that interact digitally to drive productivity.
For example, Dutch bank ABN Amro is using occupancy data to help employees find available workspaces, and analysing traffic patterns around lunchtime to manage lift rush hours.

2. Ingrain the co-working mentality in real estate strategy
By 2020, there will be 26 000 co-working locations worldwide. By comparison, there are 24 000 Starbucks globally. Initially, co-working was simply a term for the use of a shared workspace that businesses – many of them individual entrepreneurs or small startups.

“Today, top class co-working spaces like FutureSpace in Sandton, are used by a wide variety of businesses, including multinational companies,“ says Trim.
In the future, companies will also need to think more about accessing office space rather than owning or leasing it. This paradigm shift will require an evaluation of “core” and “ flexible” space needs so that businesses can execute a real estate strategy that minimises cost and maximises opportunities.

3. Make employee experience a core part of business strategy
While most business leaders already have an understanding of the importance of employee engagement, three-quarters of those surveyed in a Harvard Business Review study said that most of their employees are not highly engaged.

Says Trim: “Engagement and productivity can have a direct impact on the bottom line. One of the best ways that companies can ensure that their employees are engaged is to dedicate someone entirely to the employee experience. By creating a position of a chief experience officer, you can focus attention and resources to reduce work-day friction and create positive experiences for employees.”

4. Create a workplace that makes people healthier
Low productivity due to poor health damages companies profitability. In the U.S. for example, overweight workers and those with chronic health conditions account for more $153 billion in lost productivity annually.
“To combat these trends, wellness is and will remain one of the hottest topics in workplace design, “ said Trim.
“Employees will soon expect to be healthier when they leave the office than when they arrived. This will be thanks to access to high-quality air, natural light, water and healthy food choices, plus wellness programs with opportunities for exercise, health care services and social engagement.”

Technology can also play a role. Some European companies encourage employees to wear Fitbits and answer daily questions to assess exercise levels, stress levels, productivity and overall well-being. Employees then translate data-driven insights into decisions around how, where and when to work.
“By 2020, we expect that the importance of benchmarking built- environment performance to wellness standards will increase dramatically,” Trim adds.

5. Enable an agile organisation
Most organisations have dedicated teams with certain expertise that work on specific products or services for clients.
“Due to changing client demands, a quickly shifting environment and evolving technologies, organisations are starting to rethink these structures by prioritising collaboration between teams, breaking down silos.
The “agile organisation” is a term that’s getting a lot of attention right now,” said Trim.
To boost collaboration between people with different areas of expertise and backgrounds, agile organisations must be able to bring people physically together to work. Collaborations are key, which means that more people will come to the office and average occupancy rates will increase. Additionally, formal planned meetings are replaced by short, effective “meeting moments” and continuous informal collaboration within teams.
According to a study from McKinsey & Company, businesses that are deploying agile development at scale have accelerated their innovation by up to 80 percent.
“The year 2020 isn’t that far away. It is critical for South African companies to make space and location decisions that create engaging and productive experiences for employees,” Trim concludes.

Life lessons from three 100-year-olds

Imagine you were 100 years old and you were looking back on you life. Would you still be anxious about the little things currently on your mind?

If all human beings were honest, we would have to say that far too often, we allow the craziest things to rule our brains and cause us anxiety. We get stuck in the here and now and before we know it, we are caught in a rut. Most times, all we need is a small shift in perspective.

I personally believe that successful people don’t wait for these shifts in perspective to sporadically happen to them but rather create “road blocks” and purposely put them in their own paths so that something is constantly telling them to look at the bigger picture.

This is why there is such value in “informal education”. If you can make it a priority to listen to podcasts daily, read as much as you can and watch really fascinating YouTube videos across a variety of topics, you are going a long way to hacking your own life for growth and perspective.

Not too long ago, I came across this absolute gem of a video that I’d like to share with you today. Three centenarians are asked what their most valuable life lessons are, and also their regrets. I found their answers and perspective to be so powerful and I hope you do too.

This is informal education at its best!

By Mark Sham, founder and CEO of Suits & Sneakers and Impello incubation hub

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