NOW Money Gaining Traction in MENA’s Fintech Ecosystem
Earlier this year, fintech startup NOW Money battled 9 finalists at Arabnet’s Startup Battle in Dubai, claiming first place and their sixth award to date. Founded by former bankers Katherine Budd and Ian Dillion, NOW Money was created with the aim of improving the lives of low-income migrant workers.
Budd and Dillion originally wanted to bring ‘challenger banks’ or banks that are launching purely on smartphones to the UAE. However, after looking into the demographics of the country, they found that the majority of UAE’s population (70%) – around 4.5 million people - were low-income migrant workers, most of whom were unbanked due to insufficient minimum salary requirements. They also found that 85% of the workers were using smartphones to get in touch with their families, meaning there was a large mobile market ready to tap into.
In September 2015, under the tagline ‘empowering the unbanked’, the duo launched NOW Money with the goal of providing workers with financial inclusion via direct access to a current account, debit card, and low-cost remittance services directly from an app and service center. Through the startup’s partner bank, workers would be provided with accounts into which they would get paid every month, as well as a debit card they could use to withdraw money from an ATM or make online and in-store purchases.
To access their account, workers would just have to login to the NOW Money app using a pin password and/or facial recognition. On the app, they would then be able to monitor their transactions, buy mobile phone credit, pay utility bills and have access to a remittance marketplace where they would be able to compare market remittance functionality and remit directly to their families.
During the past year and a half, the startup has secured partnerships with many local and private companies including Noor Bank, MasterCard, and various exchange houses across the region. It has also won several awards from competitions such as Pitch360, Get in the Ring, Chivas the Venture, IBM SmartCamp, and Women in STEM.
The application is currently live and under testing with some initial corporate clients, with plans to fully launch later this year. The startup also hopes to expand across GCC starting with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and add more services, such as peer to peer payments and lending.