What We Know About TymeBank’s New CEO, Karl Westvig

When Karl Westvig resumes as  TymeBank’s CEO on 1 October, he has one job: help the Tencent-backed digital bank disrupt South Africa’s banking industry.  Westvig, who was appointed CEO on Monday, replaces Coenraad Jonker who had been CEO for two years. Jonker will move to an executive chair role within the Tyme Group.

Westvig will lead TymeBank’s ambitious plans including a $150 million fundraise, pursuit of 10 million customers, an initial public offering (IPO) by 2028, and a mission to become a top 3 bank in South Africa’s competitive banking industry.

He is no stranger in South Africa’s finance and fintech circles. He has co-founded several companies notably Retail Capital, DirectAxis, and RCS Group. In 2022, he sold Retail Capital, an SME credit provider, to TymeBank for R1.5 billion ($83 million). 

Early days

Born in Malmesbury, Western Cape on January 25, 1971, Westvig’s education credentials include a Bachelor of Business Science (Statistics and Operations Research) from the University of Cape Town and a fintech certificate from Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

His first job was as a strategy manager, credit risk, at  Foschini Group, one of South Africa’s largest retail chains from 1994 to 1997. He later joined credit provider DirectAxis as general manager for risk and customer management. But it was perhaps Westvig’s next role that set him on the path of startups and venture capital.

Building RCS Group & Como Capital

In August 1999, Westvig was part of the founding team of RCS Group, a division of Foschini Group which eventually became one of the biggest consumer finance businesses in South Africa. RCS monetised Foschini's store-card base by creating personal loan products and after proving the model, they offered third-party credit to the customer bases of other retail chains. At its peak, the company had disbursed over R2.5 billion ($138 million) in loans and had more than 750 employees.

He would spend the next nine and half years as CEO of RCS Group. In 2005, Standard Bank acquired a 45% equity stake in the company. "I could have had a small retirement, but I wasn't ready for that,” Westvig said.

Flush with cash from the exit and looking for his next adventure, Westwig started Como Capital, an angel investment fund. Through the fund, Westvig invested in five businesses in two years, in the process learning what he referred to as “a host of expensive lessons.” 

From the failures, one success story emerged which would eventually lead him to TymeBank–an SME credit provider called Retail Capital.

The Retail Capital story

Founded in 2011, Retail Capital’s main offering was a cash advance product for merchants. “We're almost like private bankers for SMEs,” Westvig described the company at one point. The concept proved to be a hit in South Africa, driving the startup to 150 million rands in turnover by 2017.

According to Westvig, what drove Retail Capital’s success in contrast with other investments by Como Capital was that as a credit-related business, the company’s offering was a product he had an extensive understanding of. 

Retail Capital’s founding partner Dave Lewis came up with the idea for Retail Capital after he saw a similar product in the UK and figured it would work in South Africa because of the country’s high card penetration. The bet proved to be a success, with Retail Capital’s asset value clocking over R300 million ($17 million) by 2018.

By 2021, the company’s loan advances were closing in on R4.5 billion ($249 million) from over 37,000 clients and Retail Bank had started to attract the attention of a then 2-year-old Patrice Motsepe-backed digital bank.

Exit to TymeBank and road to CEO

By the time TymeBank completed the acquisition of Retail Capital for R1.5 billion ($83 million) in December 2022, the lender had already clocked 7 billion rands in disbursed funds to over 50,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs). TymeBank itself had 6 million customers and this would be its first acquisition since its 2019 launch.

TymeBank's Business Banking division, which would absorb Retail Capital’s operations post the acquisition and would be headed by Westvig, had 120,000 customers with transactional business accounts which Retail Capital could leverage as potential credit customers. 

A year and a half after first entering TymeBank’s executive echelon as an executive for business and retail banking, Westvig will now lead the digital bank towards its most ambitious goals to date. As for Westwig, even with his impressive achievements in South Africa’s finance industry in a career spanning 30 years, this will perhaps be his most challenging feat so far.

"I am excited about taking up this assignment at such a pivotal time for the business," he said of his appointment as CEO.

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