MEDICI now! Startup Stories highlights the companies that are shaping the new financial technology industry. Keep an eye out each week for new stories! If you or someone you know should be highlighted, send us a note. Without further ado…
Name/Title: Michael Kent, Co-Founder and CEO
Industry Segment: Remittances
Target Markets: Global
LTP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Michael Kent: I’ve spent the last 10 years as an entrepreneur building businesses in consumer financial services. I founded Small World Financial Services Group in 2004, growing the company to become Europe’s largest offline money transfer provider and a top ten player globally. In 2012, I then founded global remittance company Azimo with a view to driving mobile and social innovation in the international money transfer market and most recently founded Tandem, a UK challenger bank. Outside of the day job, I invest in early-stage FinTech startups and mentor young entrepreneurs in the sector.
LTP: Give us a paragraph pitch of your company.
MK: We use digital technology to change the way that people send and receive money, taking a process that has been expensive and slow and based on the high street with players like Western Union, and moving it onto mobile phones. Azimo has the largest digital network in the world enabling payments to over 190 countries from any internet-connected device. By making the process faster, cheaper and more accessible, we save people huge amounts of money and time.
LTP: In a sentence or two, what problem are you solving today?
MK: Customers have moved on but financial services haven’t kept up with the digital revolution. The main lesson I learned from Small World was just how inefficient the high street model of money transfer was: inconvenient, slow and expensive. Just like bookstores (Amazon), travel (Skyscanner) or movies (Netflix), moving the process into a digital environment make it faster, cheaper and much more convenient.
LTP: Who are you selling to?
MK: Our target market is anyone who sends money anywhere! When we talk to our customers they love us because no one wants to spend an hour standing in a queue to send money or filling out endless bank forms. If they want to send money, on the go, from anywhere, and they want the cheapest rates, our app is for them. There’s also a huge part of the population who don’t have access to bank accounts. Azimo really stands out due to our range of money collection methods. We have over 200,000 cash collection locations, offer home delivery and mobile wallet and bank transfer options and send money to over 190 countries across the world.
LTP: Why did you start the company?
MK: A revolution was needed in the way that people transfer money. I could see the huge growth of mobile and the rising digital expectations of consumers, and yet I could see that no-one was joining the dots. It made absolutely no sense to me. I knew I had to harness the two, to provide a seamless anytime, anywhere service for digitally native people on the go.
LTP: What's the most important change coming to your segment in the next 3–5 years?
MK: The future of the market is that within the next 5–10 years, there will be no high street stores left. All financial services will be delivered via mobile. The FinTech industry will be a very different world in the future. Our world today is very much mobile-first and that could easily become mobile-only in the years to come. For financial services, that means that 2 billion more people will have smartphone-centric mobile wallets in places like Africa and Asia, putting them financially on grid – think about what that would mean for the families and the economies in those regions.
As smartphone sales reach saturation point in developed markets, technology adoption growth is now solidly focused on emerging and developing nations. Following on from the success of domestic millennial-focused payment apps such as Venmo in the US, sending money mobile-to-mobile around the world, instantly and at low cost, will take off in 2017.
LTP: What’s your next milestone?
MK: We’re all about making the service even better for our customers and that’s something we will never stop working on. We recently partnered with Facebook to integrate messenger into their service, enabling customers to transfer money to any of their Facebook contacts from within the social channel. We’ve also launched a customer-service focused chatbot which allows users to quickly check rates and delivery methods without having to email in or wait in a call queue.
LTP: Anything else you want to say to our audience?
MK: Check out our range of delivery methods and send rate at www.azimo.com and try the service for yourself.
Bonus - Users’ Choice Question:
LTP: If you could change one thing that financial services people do incorrectly, what would that be?
MK: For financial services, it’s all about a lack of focus on customers. We still have these huge staid monoliths who are failing to reinvent themselves in the way that today’s digitally native customers want. Their failure to embrace digital will ultimately push customers away. The other huge obstacle is winning back customer trust. Trust and security is absolutely pivotal to this industry and I think many players have a very long way to go.
LTP: Thank you, Michael!
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