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Africa’s Largest Bank Acquires 35% Stake In SA Fintech Startup


August 25, 2020

Africa’s largest bank, Standard Bank, has acquired a 35 percent equity stake in South African digital escrow startup, TradeSafe Escrow, for an undisclosed sum.

Founded in 2013 by Jethro O’Brien, TradeSafe calls itself the longest-running digital escrow company in South Africa. The platform functions as an online escrow platform that safeguards the buyer’s funds in trust in a transaction involving two or more parties.

The funds are only released to the seller, and other approved beneficiaries once the buyer receives the goods or services in the agreed condition.

TradeSafe also claims to be the first digital escrow organisation in the world to offer an API gateway which allows for online marketplaces and stores to offer escrow payments to customers.

Commenting on the development, CEO/Founder of TradeSafe, O’Brien, said:

“Both TradeSafe and Standard Bank realised the necessity for a fast, secure, and affordable escrow solution in the wake of the increasing volume of scams, fraud, and unpaid invoice payments in South African commerce. Our fees come in at a fifth of what a reputable law firm or bank would charge in a transaction.”

As part of the details of the deal, Standard Bank has appointed two non-executive directors to the TradeSafe board.

Standard Bank also has management oversight of TradeSafe’s escrow account and is fully involved in the process for payment instructions that TradeSafe initiates. 

“The bank will provide a second release payment function,” O’Brien added. “This means that with our increased governance, security, and credibility, TradeSafe will now be able to target commodity and M&A transactions greater than ZAR 25 Mn.”

As seen in the announcement, TradeSafe said it has recently overhauled its platform and its new website. Its API offering also incorporates new payment gateways such as SnapScan and Ozow.

“We also employed Standard Bank’s proprietary host-to-host technology which allows for automated payments,” added O’Brien.

Kuben Chetty, Head of Client Solutions at Standard Bank, expressed that there is a strong need for a digital escrow solution within South Africa given the rise of digital transactions and especially as buyers and sellers seek ways to mitigate transaction fraud.

Chetty added thus, “Standard Bank is very excited with its investment in TradeSafe Escrow and this provides both parties the opportunity to explore ways to leverage each other’s capabilities to help their clients transact securely.”

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