When Discovery’s Adrian Gore first announced that the insurance group planned to launch a retail bank it caused quite a stir. It was September 2015 and Gore (53) was presenting yet another set of stellar financial results — operating profit was up 17% that year — to a characteristically full house of analysts, the media and retail investors.
No insurance company can draw a crowd to its financial results quite like Discovery can. Even ostensible rivals, such as Firstrand and Standard Bank, in the typically “sexier” banking sector, would come off second-best.
People flock to Discovery’s results to watch Gore sell the story, televangelist-style. Inevitably, new products and international partnerships are also announced as investors get a glimpse into Discovery’s quest for world domination. Globally, think Apple, under Tim Cook or Steve Jobs.
But accustomed as investors were to lights, cameras and lots of action, no-one was quite prepared for Gore’s bombshell that Discovery would also be starting a bank. There was an audible gasp from the crowd; some seemed to have begun to clap.
Banking CEOS, no doubt, shed a tear: Discovery, the start-up that indelibly disrupted the medical aid and insurance industries, was planning to bring that same disruptive force to banking.
Fast-forward two years and Discovery Bank, this month, became the second new bank to obtain a banking licence from the Reserve Bank.
It followed on the heels of Tymedigital, which obtained its banking licence at the end of September and plans to target the lower-income segment of the market, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises. Commonwealth Bank of Australia — the largest listed company on the Australian Securities Exchange — is Tymedigital’s majority shareholder, with Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital Investments holding a 10% stake.
Both banks will be branchless. But unlike Tymedigital, Discovery Bank will be going after the retail affluent mar-
What it means: Though Discovery will be entering a tougher field than when it launched its medical aid, its chances of success look good