One of the most promising fintech startups in the region is NOW Money. The company was founded in 2015 by Ian Dillon and Katharine Budd.
NOW Money uses cutting edge mobile banking technology to improve the lives of low income migrant workers in the UAE. They help workers access banking and remittance services otherwise out of reach, for the first time providing them with direct access to a current account, debit card and remittance service directly from the NOW Money smartphone app and service center.
When we asked them how they came up with the idea, they explained that both of the founders had a history in banking and had been intrigued by “Challenger Banks”, which are disrupting the industry by providing a complete banking service accessed on a smartphone. They also noticed that Dubai has a large population of the blue-collar workers. They researched the kind of problems workers face and discovered that more that 70% of the workers are “unbanked”, meaning they don’t have access to traditional banking methods because they don’t meet minimum salary requirements. They then realized they can develop an application which includes them in the financial system with more social benefits.
We were amazed by how easy the application is. According to their research, more than 85% of the workers use a smartphone to be able to get in touch with their families back home. The worker will have an account into which they get paid every month, which is provided by NOW Money’s partner bank. The worker also will be provided with a debit card, which can be used to withdraw money from an ATM and make online or in-store purchases. To be able to access their account, the worker has to login to the NOW Money app using a pin password and/or facial recognition. NOW Money’s USP is the remittance marketplace that they provide customers access to. Through this users are able to compare market remittance functionality and remit directly to their family and friends overseas, like Easy Paisa is in Pakistan. The app also lets you view your transactions, pay bills and top-up your mobile.
NOW Money has gained massive traction recently in the local startup ecosystem. They won the Best Start-Up at the Women in STEM Awards 2016, and SmartCamp 2016, which was hosted by IBM. They also won a competition specifically for companies who are trying to have a positive social impact on the world run by The Chivas Brothers, known as TheVenture. Most recently, they won Get In The Ring Abu Dhabi in the heavyweight category (company valuation $2.5m+), and will be flying to Singapore for the global final in May. They will represent the GCC this July in Los Angeles to compete in the global finals of TheVenture.
During the past year and a half, they’ve secured partnerships with many local and private companies such as Noor Bank, Mastercard and various exchange houses across the region. They are also partnered with AimBrain for facial recognition security & biometric authentication for their smartphone app.
Having already launched with a small number of initial clients, they plan to fully launch by June 2017. They endevour to expand the number of users in the UAE and across the GCC starting with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. With the expansion, they also hope to add more services, initial plans surround saving and peer to peer payments and lending.