Remitly on Serving Underbanked Populations and Ensuring Shared Alignment With Partners

NCR - Digital-First Banking - June 2022 - Dig deeper into how open banking technologies underpinning key BaaS contributions are changing consumers' banking habits

NCR - Digital-First Banking - June 2022 - Dig deeper into how open banking technologies underpinning key BaaS contributions are changing consumers' banking habits

Moving to a new country is never easy, and gaining access to banking services is one of the more challenging aspects for new residents of the United States.

Missing documents, lacking a Social Security number and even cultural differences between banking in the U.S. compared to their native countries present obstacles for these consumers — many of whom are already facing additional hurdles to acclimating to their new lives.

“This is a customer [base that] is underserved,” said Dan Webber, general manager, new products for Remitly, a Seattle-based FinTech that specializes in convenient, secure, international remittance payments. “It’s more difficult to get access to a bank account. Going into [bank] branches and providing this type of documentation is painful.”

In addition to offering financial services to this often-underbanked segment of the population, Remitly enables consumers to send money easily and conveniently, with transparent exchange rates and no need to visit a physical bank.

“The traditional mass market institutions don’t focus on this much, and they haven’t, as a result, figured out how to offer that,” he said. “Remitly, I think, is a great example of [an answer to the question], ‘How do we help customize solutions for a non-mass market — but [which is] still [a] really big population of people — who are not being as effectively served in the mass market?’”

Gaining Consumer Trust

According to Webber, the most important element for this customer base is trust.

“Trust is so critical,” he said. “If [we] don’t have trust of the regulators, if [we] don’t have trust of our customers, if we’re not keeping those things secure, or if we’re being too willy-nilly with privacy and those types of things, that’s going to create problems.”

In addition to the need to gain the trust of a demographic that is so often taken advantage of, Remitly has had to gain the trust of regulators in the U.S. and abroad.

“Having both a shared alignment and meeting a fairly high bar … is critical to actually having the trust of our customers [and] the trust of our regulators because if you break that, nothing else is going to end up mattering,” Webber said.

Ensuring that partners are trusted is also key.

“Obviously, there’s going to need to be some form of shared alignment in terms [of] your technology,” he said.

Why Partnership Needs to Mean Alignment

When choosing organizations to partner with, Remitly seeks out alignment, said Webber. Having the same values as a partner is always important, but for Remitly to fulfill its mission, it is imperative.

“I think the most important thing is alignment — on vision, on your customers, on regulatory compliance,” he said. “Having a shared understanding upfront on that makes everything else go a lot easier down the road.”

When evaluating potential partners, it is important to truly engage with them and ensure there is a shared mission.

“Making sure that you have shared philosophies on how you approach compliance, how you approach the tech stacks and how those things work together … [requires] really investing some of that time upfront, getting to know your partners and having a shared mission,” Webber said.

In Remitly’s case, that means making sure all partners shared the organization’s passion for serving new immigrants to the country.

“We’re very explicit [about] who the customers we’re serving are,” he said. “We’re lucky to have partners who share some of those same values in terms of serving this population. I think that’s really critical because if you don’t share the same mission, if you don’t share the same philosophies, it’s not going to serve anyone well in the end, and you’re going to end up with a lot of friction along the way.”

Through proper alignment and ensuring transparency, Remitly has been able to help countless immigrants become more financially connected and ease their transitions.

“That’s the most important thing,” said Webber. “Without the customers, none of this is going to matter.”