Retail bank First National Bank (FNB) has noted a substantial number of newly registered businesses since the launch of the online business registration initiative collaboration, which it established in 2013 in partnership with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), says FNB business value-adds CEO Sanjeev Orie.
He tells Engineering News that FNB is currently working on enhancing the service with new features that will make it even easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to start operating.
The initiative aims to streamline company registration and corporate bank account opening processes by combining the two to fast-track the process. “Registering a business in South Africa is a long and difficult task, which often takes longer than it should,” says Orie.
Further, the success of the programme has simultaneously enabled FNB to increase the number of new business accounts it can open because more new businesses have been registered through the programme.
Orie says that, more importantly, working with clients through the registration programme has enabled FNB to better understand clients’ needs. Therefore, the bank now offers – in collaboration with black economic-empowerment (BEE) rating and research agency Empowerdex – a platform for businesses to apply for a BEE rating certificate.
He notes that the collaborative online business registration programme continues to be hailed as a leading example of public–private partnerships and that it should be a point of reference for such partnerships in future.
Orie says that FNB is, therefore, proud of its efforts and the resources it has invested to sustain the programme.
The importance of registering a business with ease will never diminish in South Africa, as the country is currently on a drive to boost entrepreneurship, he stresses, adding that this is why FNB believes its collaboration with the CIPC plays an even bigger role in enabling entrepreneurs to be successful.
“. . . [W]e are better positioned to service the needs of new and existing businesses through not only registration but also our overall business solutions.”
Orie says the collaboration has been a learning curve for FNB and the CIPC, as a partnership of this particular nature is the first of its kind in the country.
Orie tells Engineering News that the registration initiative is in line with government’s appeal to financial institutions to support SMEs.
Moreover, in addition to streamlining the business registration process, the collaboration between FNB and the CIPC provides targeted education regarding the yearly company registration renewals process. Orie points out that these customer-centric innovations streamline and automate the existing processes to benefit new and existing businesses.
“This partnership is a great milestone for SMEs in South Africa, as the role of banking institutions has changed over the last few years. The vast majority of business owners, whether they are starting a new company or expanding an existing one, need practical support, guidance and assistance in the administrative, compliance and day-to-day operational functions of their companies,” says Orie.
He highlights entrepreneurs still being charged only R125 to register their company as a major achievement for the initiative. However, this excludes the name reservation, as outlined in the Companies Act, though the process is instantaneous – there is no need to mail documents, stand in queues or wait weeks for certificates.
“This service gives small business owners immeasurable value and enhances the prospects of opening or registering a business successfully. Business clients can now focus on their core functions instead of getting bogged down in time-consuming administrative and compliance responsibilities,” says Orie.
FNB’s business registration initiative is part of the CIPC’s strategy to roll out a series of end-user services to increase efficiencies and reduce inefficient manual services.
The CIPC engaged with local banks in 2013 and designed its systems in such a way that all banks could connect to it. As a result, the organisation aggressively started migrating its services to an electronic platform to reduce inefficient manual services, explains Orie.