“We want to make sending money as easy as sending an instant message”: Alice Newton-Rex, VP of Product at WorldRemit

WorldRemit, the online money transfer service that lets users send money to friends and family around the world, has been expanding globally to be at the forefront of international payment transfers. In recent months, WorldRemit has partnered with Android Pay, launched in Singapore, and partnered with Huawei ‘s mobile money platform across Africa. The fintech enables seamless money transfers to over 140 countries.

PaymentEye caught up with Alice Newton-Rex, Vice President of Product at WorldRemit on the importance of partnerships and the new mobile money trends that are emerging in new geographies.

Earlier this year WorldRemit announced it would be integrating with Android Pay. Could you tell me more about the collaboration?

We have always been a very mobile-focused business. I think that was why Android Pay was a really logical start for us. As a business, our focus is enabling people to send money home from 50 countries to over 140 different countries. The people who are sending money are typically based in the UK, US, Europe or Australia. They’re sending money back to primarily the developing world, typically countries in Asia, Africa, or Latin America.

An exciting concept that presents an opportunity about the industry is that so many of these remittance payments are still taking place offline. Estimates say that almost 95% of the $600bn being sent home every year is still going offline. This is one of the reasons why we’re connected to integration with Android Pay; we want to make the overall user experience as simple as it can possibly be so that people can have the easiest experience for sending money home.

One of the greatest aspects about Android Pay is that, for a user who is sending a remittance payment home, they no longer need to enter their card details, which we all know is incredibly fiddly on a mobile phone. Instead, they can just hit the Android Pay button, where they’ll be able to access all of their saved details and then continue straight through the transaction with no friction.

An interesting phenomenon that we’ve seen is lowering the friction in the journey of sending money is that people start to send money more often and in smaller amounts, which implies that they’re able to really let money transfer fit into their lives. This can be whether they’re making a one-off payment to send money for a birthday, or whether they’re paying for groceries or school fees. Giving people the ease of sending means that they can integrate it into their lives and send small payments whenever, wherever.

The paradigm that we use in our product team is that we want to make sending money as easy as sending an instant message. You should be able to WhatsApp your family member who lives in Ghana, they should be able to request money, and you should be able to send it in just a few taps.  Overall, that’s our aim at WorldRemit, and a business such as Android Pay fits into what we want to create with an incredible mobile to mobile experience.

What interests me about WorldRemit is the focus on financing Sub-Saharan Africa with the power of Silicon Valley. In terms of the growth of the product, do you see more growth in the developing countries or are you growing your userbase in the West?

That’s a really interesting question and it’s one of the things that makes the business unique. We’re tuned in to the technological development that’s happening both in the developed world and in the developing world. Our design team went to Ghana in March and we were extremely focused on how we can make sure we’re designing the right experience for the recipients of money. Mobile money is a huge phenomenon.

And just to kind of cover of how that’s different than something like Android Pay which is more of a Silicon Valley type development, mobile money really means that for lots of the world’s poorest people who don’t have bank accounts, their mobile phones really acts as their bank accounts. With the basic feature phone, you can send and pay for goods and save money. That’s taking off as a huge phenomenon now and it’s not something as visible to most people, say, living in the UK.

I think we’re all seeing an incredible amount of kind of technological enablement happening particularly in Africa. It’s very fundamental for those people’s lives because they’re moving from a position of having no access to formal financial services to suddenly being part of proper formal financial ecosystem. And then where WorldRemit comes into the picture is we make them part of the global financial ecosystem by being able to hook them up with people, typically friends or relatives who are based in the developed world.

So, moving back into the developed world context, we see the technological innovation around concepts such as Android Pay as removing the friction from existing transactions. People who use Android Pay already have a bank account and that’s what they’re connected to Android Pay. So arguably, it may be less groundbreaking in their lives but it does make things a lot easier.

Do you think the more developed countries will follow on from the innovation happening in Sub-Saharan Africa? As in, will consumers in the UK be more dependent on their phones for banking?

I think we’ll see a lot of shifts similar to it. I absolutely think that we’ll end up doing nearly 100% of our banking on our phones even in the next five years. The difference is that at the moment, e-services in Africa are being provided by the mobile network corporations. I think that in the UK, we’re more likely to continue to see them being provided by banks, whether that’s traditional banks or the new challenger banks. I think they’ll keep a grip on the ecosystem but it will move purely onto a mobile.

In terms of expansion and growth for WorldRemit, what targets does the business have for the year?

There are lots of interesting ways to answer that question. We’re constantly expanding globally and going into new countries. Wherever we spot new trends, such as mobile money taking off, we want to be at forefront and help connect consumers for remittance payments. There’s going to be a lot more of global growth.

But we’re also interested in pursuing a lot more – for example, the things that are happening on the sender’s side. We’ll certainly also be adding Apple Pay in the near future. I’m currently working on how we can take advantage of all the new technologies to innovate and provide people with better experiences in sending money home.


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