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WorldRemit is a UK-based financial services company that enables global money transfers through its website and mobile applications. The service is available to senders in more than 50 countries and offers transfers to more than 110 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. Money can be received in a variety of ways, including cash pick-up, bank deposit, Mobile Money (Mobile Wallet), and mobile airtime top-up. Founded in 2010, WorldRemit received a significant $40m investment by venture capital firm Accel Partners in March 2014.
WorldRemit is the brainchild of Ismail Ahmed, an international expert in remittance and money transfer regulations. After university, Ismail Ahmed went on to work with a number of money transfer companies and later a remittances advisor to the United Nations Development Programme. As a compliance specialist he helped money transfer companies comply with anti-terrorist financing and anti-money laundering regulations introduced after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2010, following an executive MBA at London Business School, he founded WorldRemit. The stated aim of the company is to provide a fast, simple, low cost alternative to other money transfer operators. Since 2010, WorldRemit has significantly expanded the range of services offered and the number of countries in which customers can send and receive money. With its headquarters in Hammersmith, London, the company employs more than 100 people and is reportedly seeking to expand its staff to 150 by the end of 2014. The company is also expanding its US operation, based in Denver, Colorado and has indicated that it intends to employ at least 200 people.
Series A funding
In March 2014, WorldRemit received a $40 million investment by Accel Partners, a California-based venture and growth equity firm. This investment constituted the largest-ever Series A funding round completed by a financial technology startup in Europe. Accel, an early investor in Facebook, Dropbox, and Spotify, is working closely with WorldRemit towards expanding money transfer options internationally, developing new products, and increasing the number of services offered to customers. Harry Nelis of Accel Partners joined WorldRemit’s board of directors in February 2014.
Mobile app launch
Following the investment by Accel Partners earlier in the year, WorldRemit announced the launch of its Android mobile app in November 2014. Within three weeks of launch the app had been downloaded more than 10,000 and reached the Top 20 Finance App charts in nine countries. An iOS app was launched later the same month, reaching the 10,000 downloads mark within one week and achieving Top 20 positions in 19 countries.
WorldRemit is an online money transfer operator, as opposed to traditional money transfer companies that typically rely on customers visiting a physical agent location to pay in money. All transfers are sent through worldremit.com or the WorldRemit mobile App from a computer, smartphone, or tablet. In order to send money, customers in any of the 50 countries currently served by WorldRemit can use their credit or debit card to make a transaction. In Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the United Kingdom customers can pay for their transaction directly from their bank account using third-party payment services including Sofort, Barclays Pingit, iDeal and others. WorldRemit offers a variety of ways to receive money including deposit into a bank account, cash pick-up from a network of global partners including banks and transfer agents. Customers can also send to Mobile Money (Mobile Wallet) accounts or top-up the airtime balance on a prepay mobile phone. The options available for receiving money vary by country.
WorldRemit has reported significant growth in the number of transfers being sent to Mobile Money services. More than 80% of transfers to Kenya through WorldRemit are received on Safaricom's M-Pesa. In August 2014, WorldRemit revealed that 60% of its transfers were going to Econet’s EcoCash, just three months after the mobile receiving option was added. The company has also stated that more than 50% of transfers to Africa go to mobile devices, Mobile Money and mobile airtime top-ups combined.
WorldRemit is managed by its founder and CEO, Ismail Ahmed. Mr Ahmed is a former UN compliance advisor with more than 20 years’ experience in the remittance industry. He holds an MSc and PhD from the University of London as well as an executive MBA from London Business School. The operational side of the business is overseen by Catherine Wines, a qualified accountant with extensive experience in the money transfer industry. She previously worked as Regional and Operations Director for Travelex Money Transfer (sold to Coinstar.) WorldRemit’s board of directors comprises Harry Nelis from Accel Partners, Jonathan Addis (non-executive director), Ismail Ahmed, and Catherine Wines.
Following the Series A funding round in March 2014, WorldRemit has attracted media attention across consumer, technology, and business media. The company has been featured on TechCrunch and various other technology-focussed publications. Both the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal have written about the role played by WorldRemit and other financial technology companies in disrupting traditional financial services. The role of London, in contrast to Silicon Valley or Wall Street, as an emerging hub for financial technology is a recurring theme in the media. WorldRemit CEO Ismail Ahmed has repeatedly criticised the “super-tax” on remittances to Africa, referring to the cost and dominant market position of Western Union and MoneyGram. He has endorsed the “5x5 objective” of the G8 and the WorldBank remittance programme for reducing the average costs of remittances to five per cent in five years , with an end date of 2014. Mr Ahmed told African Business Review: “It is disappointing, but unsurprising that the 5x5 targets have not yet been met. The arrival of new, online remittance services like WorldRemit has done much to disrupt the money transfer industry, however there are still powerful forces ranged against change.”
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