Wamda has participated in UAE-based NOW Money's $7 million funding round which was led by Anthemis Exponential Ventures. The round also included participation from Knuru Capital, Commercial Bank of Dubai, DIFC FinTech Fund, Accion Venture Lab, Greenhouse Capital and Hambro Perks Oryx Fund, among others. NOW Money also received additional support from Expo 2020 and card scheme, Visa.
Founded in 2016 by Ian Dillon and Katharine Budd, NOW Money provides unbanked migrant workers in the GCC with digital banking solutions. The startup is the first fintech company in the Gulf to use mobile banking technology to provide accounts, low-cost remittance, and other financial services to migrant workers.
This latest round of funding will be used to drive the startup’s expansion to Saudi Arabia, hire new talent and build up the local infrastructure in the country. In addition, the funding will enable NOW Money to develop its service offering and enable it to continue its growth in the UAE.
Vica Manos, Partner at Anthemis Group, said: “One of the most impactful actions a company can take is to provide fair and sustainable access to finance, and NOW Money does exactly that. By opening up financial services to some of the most deeply left-out individuals, we’re confident that Katharine, Ian and the rest of the team can achieve genuine impact, changing the face of financial services in a region that right now is showing tremendous promise."
NOW Money partners with businesses to provide an end-to-end digital payroll solution. Every company has access to a unique payroll portal - a hassle-free way to transfer employee salaries and other financial-based rewards – and every employee is issued with a contactless-enabled Visa card and receives their salary directly into the NOW Money app. NOW Money gives all customers in-app access to low-cost financial services including mobile top-up, bill pay and remittance, the latter of which enables a quick, safe and cost-effective way to remit money overseas.
We spoke with Katharine Budd about the company’s upcoming plans
Can you tell us more on how you will be using this latest investment?
It will be predominantly used to expand our geographical need in Saudi, which we’ve been working on for a while. We will use it to support the recruitment of more people as well as the infrastructure, including more technology, more data centres, and more production and nearly everything that supports the operation that we have in the UAE we’ll be replicating on the ground in Saudi.
This segment of the market is one that the banks have typically ignored, why is this?
If you think about any type of product or any type of customer, you’ve either got the option of making money at scale on low margin, or you can have less customers but the products they sell are at a higher margin, and that’s typically where banks sit. People who are on the higher end of the [socio-economic] spectrum tend to spend more with their credit, debit cards, they tend to have more money sit in their accounts for longer, and banks over here can invest that or lend it out. If you’ve got customers who are on a lower income, typically here most of those people earning money send it back to their family, they don’t keep a lot of money in their account, they tend to withdraw it on the day they get paid, and banks don’t necessarily offer particularly competitive remittance rates, which is the financial offers that those customers are interested in. So, they’re not really consuming or using any of those products that the bank is good at offering.
You now have several services on your app, is there greater engagement across the board?
A hundred percent, yes. We offer several different types of products. Our customers try us out, make sure that we actually work, and then once they do that, they go on to make bigger purchases either within the app or by the remittance and using their debit cards. So, all the transactions have a part to play, and certainly there is cross-pollination. They have a massive impact on each other, which is something that we noticed the effect early on and it became part of the strategy to leverage transactions to help build trust.
You are looking more like a financial superapp
It makes sense to us, to our users and their employers to offer as much as we can to make their lives easier. The more we have available, the more engaging it is for our customers as well, we are not stuck to one demand or structure for getting your salary and making your remittance, we’re offering all the things that we know you need. We now have quite a lot of different aspects to the app but it’s all ultimately around the customer’s finances.