What can you tell us about Azimo? How does it work?
Azimo is a social remittance network. We allow anyone with an Internet-connected device to send money to over 4.5 billion people in 125 countries using our network.
Our customers can send money to: cash at over 250,000 locations payout locations, any bank account in any currency, a mobile phone, a mobile wallet (including MPESA), and even for home delivery.
There are so many other players in the field, how did the idea come about?
I’ve worked in payments for a while and I noticed that the EU lacked a pure digital remittance business. Xoom have been very successful in the US but it’s a very different market. I wanted to do something similar but in the EU (which is larger market in total than the USA).
I also wanted to build something that was up to date with the latest technology and not held back by legacy systems: hence the focus on social media, mobile tech and algorithmic risk management, KYC and CRM
How do you differentiate yourself from a traditional service like a bank or Western Union?
We are online only – no agents, branches or locations. That means we are MUCH cheaper – we charge on average 2% – Western Union charges 7-12%. Banks tend to levy similar fees and additionally only serve their own customer and only send funds to other bank accounts.
One thing that surely differentiates you is your send money to a Facebook friend function, can you tell us more about that?
Unlike other areas of financial services Social is very applicable to remittances – Facebook is unarguably the worlds preferred medium for staying in touch with friends and family.
73% of UK remittances customers are on Facebook and, of those, over 60% were in touch with the person they wanted to send money to on social media. So we offer our customers the chance to send money to their Facebook friends. Indeed the whole service can be used from within the Facebook site.
Using social media in our service offering also has some great side effects. Because they are sender and receiver check the payment details it means many less errors. Which of course means lower costs. Plus it gives you a great chance to really get to know your customer much better for marketing but also for compliance purposes
I see that you allow your customers to go into a Barclays bank to send money, why did you decide to partner with a bank?
All money transfer companies partner with banks – they are an essential part of the chain. We know Barclays well and they have been particularly forward thinking in their handling of payments – witness the PingIt app
Now with SEPA, cross-borders payments inside the Euro space will be much simpler and a lot cheaper, how do you plan to compete with that?
Only a tiny number of customers use our service is for EURO payments. I’m pleased that the Euro area is finally making real time Euro payments a reality although there is still an way to go on making those services really usable on any internet connected device.
What we do is make real time payments from the EU to anywhere else in the world as fast and fiction-less as SEPA.
You were in the news for securing a £300,000 investment. So what are your plans for the coming months?
That was actually a while back. We are live in the UK at the moment. We will launch in the rest of the EU in the coming months and given the proven traction we are getting probably raise more funding to accelerate the roll out.
Money-transfer and remittances is usually the field of banks and well-established players like Western Union or MoneyGram, but companies like you, or Payza, are starting to change the field. How do you think the market will look in a few years?
This is a trillion dollar market and even what might look like the dominant player Western Union has less than a 20% market share. I think as it moves to digital over the next 5 years the market will continue to be heterogeneous with lots of new and old successful players that are making good returns. And more and more people will seek entry to the market: the telcos, emerging market banks, online providers like PayPal and Skrill all trying to stake a claim.
Not all will be successful but it’ll be great fun to watch and of course the real winners as it should be will be consumers with lower prices and better services.
Michael Kent, Founder and CEO, Azimo.com
Michael is the Founder and CEO of Azimo.com. He has almost a decade of experience in the money transfer industry. He co-founded Small World Financial Services in 2004. Within seven years, it became the largest independent money transfer company in Europe and a leading global player handling over $3.5bn in transactions annually.
Prior to that he held senior roles at News Corporation and WPP, was an advisor to Vince Cable and began his career as a management consultant at Accenture and Arthur D Little, working in high tech and media industries. Michael holds an MA from Cambridge University and an MBA from INSEAD.