WesBank, a prominent vehicle financier, has recently responded to allegations made by a former employee regarding discriminatory interest rates charged to black clients.
The whistleblower claimed that WesBank charged higher interest rates to black customers compared to their white counterparts.
In addition, a financial investigator named Emerald van Zyl stated that after reviewing 210 contracts provided by WesBank customers, he found disparities in the interest rates charged to black and white clients.
WesBank’s CEO, Ghana Msibi, firmly denied these allegations, asserting that the bank’s credit risk-assessment process is blind to race.
However, he expressed concern about the potential damage caused by these unfounded claims to the bank’s reputation. Msibi emphasized that WesBank had no intention of pursuing legal action against the unknown whistleblower or Van Zyl, as they had no knowledge of their involvement with the bank.
According to Van Zyl, he received 160 contracts from black customers and 50 contracts from white customers after reaching out on social media in 2019 following the whistleblower’s tip-off.
He was shocked to discover that black customers were paying interest rates as high as 19%, while white customers averaged around 11.25%. This significant difference of 8.75% raised concerns about potential discrimination.
Contrary to Van Zyl’s claims, WesBank stated that they had not been provided with any of the contracts for review.
Msibi clarified that the bank had not seen any evidence to support the allegations. He highlighted the importance of evidence and cautioned against making unsubstantiated claims that could harm the bank’s reputation.
Msibi also acknowledged that this incident exposed a lack of understanding among the public regarding the factors that influence their credit risk.
He emphasised the need for customers to be more informed about the various elements that determine interest rates. WesBank aims to bridge this knowledge gap by actively sharing information and educating customers about the credit risk assessment process.