Whatever Happened To...

Whatever Happened To … WorldRemit, Aiming To Be The ‘WhatsApp Of Money’

When a loved one is working overseas and sending money back to their family, it hasn’t always been a quick relay.

That’s why, seven years ago, WorldRemit decided to tackle a global problem: sending money to developing countries via an app or website. Making instant and secure money transfers any time of day, shamelessly skipping out on the lines in front of brick-and-mortar agents.

“We want to be known as the WhatsApp of Money,” said Brion Nazzaro, group compliance director at WorldRemit. “We’re focused on building even more partnerships with leading banks and telecoms operators around the world so that our customers can send money to their loved ones in the most convenient, relevant ways for them.”

Founded in London in 2010 — just within the same year that PYMNTS was founded — WorldRemit is a digital money transfer service helping people send money to their friends and family across the globe.

“By focusing on mobile remittances and connecting to Mobile Money, we’re helping to promote financial inclusion,” said Nazzaro, who added that the overarching goal was to reinvigorate a tired industry. “We see this as a commercial opportunity, as well as fulfilling a human need of financial inclusion. We believe the future of financial services for hundreds of millions of people will be mobile.”

Millions of people is right. WorldRemit advisors say the company makes 500,000 transfers every month and is available in more than 50 sending countries and more than 125 receiving destinations. And it is now the leading sender of remittances to Mobile Money, with connections to 34 different series in 26 countries. Those remittances are received directly by phone, which is important in countries where bank accounts are not prevalent. In fact, according to Nazzaro, many customers are migrant workers from developing countries who send money home to support their families.

And like a family does, WorldRemit has grown. In 2010, WorldRemit was just Ismail Ahmed and his two cofounders, Catherine Wines and Richard Igoe. Ahmed was a compliance advisor to the United Nations East Africa Remittance Program, specifically aiding companies in their own compliance with anti-money laundering regulation, which was introduced in the wake of 9/11. The company incubated at London Business School, where many of the early investors became involved. Over the years, things have changed.

WorldRemit touts a diverse workforce with many females in senior management and employees ranging in nationalities and backgrounds. As a result, Nazzaro said the company is very inclusive and tolerant, with high respect for new ideas.

“We’ve grown rapidly since then and now number 290 people worldwide,” said Nazzaro. “Our headquarters are in the U.K., and we have subsidiary offices in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.”

Funding has also grown. WorldRemit received $40 million in a 2014 Series A funding round care of Accel Partners and $100 million in a Series B round led by Technology Crossover Ventures.

All that funding doesn’t come without some frustration, however.

“In the early days, one of our biggest challenges was convincing banks, telecoms operators and other potential partners to work with us,” said Nazzaro. “These sorts of institutions prefer working with other large, established companies rather than small startups.”

Nazzaro said that WorldRemit discovered that, after receiving the first major funding round, it became easier to connect and converse with other potential partners: “Previously, they wouldn’t take our calls; now, they’re calling us!”

One of WorldRemit’s pinnacle moments, however, came with the launch of the Denver office. It was a statement of intent of its desire to be successful in the highly competitive U.S. remittance market.

But as for the next seven years, the plan is for consolidation as the leading sender to Mobile Money services.

“We’re already connected with many of the major Mobile Money services, but we want to sign deals with even more,” said Nazzaro. “Mobile Money is already our fastest-growing transfer method, and around a third of our transfers are now received on mobile phones.”

And, of course, don’t forget the plan to become the “WhatsApp of Money.”

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