In 2011, at the G20, Bill Gates said: “We must continue lowering the transaction costs of remittances, so that this growing pool of money has as big an impact as possible on the poorest. Reducing these costs to an average of 5 per cent would save $15bn.”
Azimo was created three months later to cut those costs and give Europe’s migrants – the hardest working, most entrepreneurial people in our society – a fairer deal. At below 2 per cent cost we already managed to beat Gates’ target by half.
The old-fashioned way in which people send money on the high street is broken. Digital technology offers a fast, secure, convenient and above all low cost future. So, we launched Azimo to disrupt the traditional money transfer market with rates up to 85 per cent cheaper than the banks and legacy money transfer operations like Western Union.
How disruptive is the idea?
In short, very. With Azimo’s digital service customers can send money instantly to over 250,000 cash pick-up locations or send cash to any bank accounts in 80-plus currencies within 24 hours. Such a universal service has never been built before.
By cutting out the high street middle men we can lose the exorbitant fees, poor customer service and lengthy delivery times of the banks and Western Union and showing that there is a modern, ethical and affordable alternative.
Who are the team behind Azimo?
Our founding team are serial fintech entrepreneurs. But, most importantly, like our customers, we’re all migrants too. I’m a Scottish South African, Marek and Marta are Polish and Ricky is an American.
We always knew that we wanted to build a diverse team, which is today split between London and Krakow, both hubs for multi-lingual finance and technology talent.
The team has grown rapidly to over 60 strong, but we still only have two Brits. Our team reflect the 10m UK and 250m worldwide migrants; 19 nationalities, speaking 21 languages.
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How crowded is this marketplace?
Whilst businesses like xoom.com have shown the way in America there are very few people offering money transfer services to the developing world from Europe today. Companies like Travelex, MoneyCorp and TransferWise offer services for generally more wealthy people sending larger amounts of pounds, dollars and euros.
That’s great and we do that too, at lower prices than all of them, but we really want to be universal and look after the lower earners. It means including African, Asian, South American destinations in our network and offering cash and mobile-based services too.
How important are the trends of mobile, social and peer-to-peer you mentioned?
There has been a huge democratisation of the internet and the services available over it. Smartphone ubiquity means that everyone can access our services – you don’t need to work in an office or have a laptop.
Social media allow us to communicate fast and reach new customers at scale. Plus its part of our service too; we now allow our customers to send money to their Facebook friends. Of the top five Facebook markets globally, US, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico, four are huge remittance destinations. It makes massive sense for us to work using existing Facebook connections.
I think the last mega-trend is bigger than just peer-to-peer. It’s the development of distributed block chain technologies. Implementing these technologies into the Azimo platform make it faster and cheaper to send money. That’s great for us and for our customers.
What funding have you received?
We’re backed by some great investors. Matt Cooper one of the founders of Capital One was one of our first investors and in March we announced a $10m Series A funding round led by Greycroft Partners and e-Ventures. Accion the global nonprofit organisation dedicated to improving the efficiency and reach of financial services in emerging markets also have a stake.
What do you think is the future for fintech?
It’s a very exciting time to be an entrepreneur in the sector. There are a few big themes: the banks and traditional financial services players remain risk adverse, slow to innovate and low risk lending led, which creates a window of opportunity; digital technology and especially mobile have dramatically reduce the cost of both building platforms and reaching/serving customers; and institutional investors are keen to invest in the sector meaning disruptive ideas have the money they need to flourish.
All that means that in every area of finance from credit to asset management to fundraising and payments you will see more and more innovation.
What’s next for the company and what are the growth expectations?
The company has been growing at over 20 per cent since we started. Right now we’re growing super-fast in Germany, France and Spain. Our plan is to keep on that trajectory in Europe whilst laying the foundations to take the business global so that people all over the world can send money with Azimo. We’re already looking at launching in Asia, North America and Africa. Watch this space.
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