Transforming Banking for Immigrants — Matt Oppenheimer, Co-Founder & CEO of Remitly
In this episode, Miguel Armaza sits down with Matt Oppenheimer, Co-Founder and CEO of Remitly, a Seattle-based mobile payments platform enabling consumers to send and receive payments around the world that aims to provide the full suite of financial services to immigrants and migrants.
The inspiration behind Remitly came when Matt was working in Kenya in 2010 and saw how difficult it was to send and receive money overseas. He began working on the problem immediately and has since grown the business to a rumored 1.5 Billion dollar-valuation in 2020.
The company has raised almost $500 million in debt and equity from top industry VCs, including Generation Investment Management, Nasper’s PayU, Stripes Group, Threshold, QED, the World Bank’s IFC, Jeff Bezos, and many more!
Back in 2010 when Matt was working for Barclays Bank in Nairobi, Kenya, he personally experienced how hard it was to send money internationally. And although it was painful for him to send money back to the US, it was actually a lot more painful for his Kenyan friends to receive money from abroad. But everyone would jump through the hoops and go through all the pain, particularly because a lot of the remittances Kenyans received were used for basic living expenses, medical expenses, and other crucial basic needs. Intuitively, Matt knew there had to be a better way to do remittances, so he decided to do something about it.
Focus on Culture
From day one, the Remitly team set out to build a product that would transform the lives of immigrants and their families by providing the most trusted financial services on the planet.
Over the last decade, the company has grown significantly and they have now served over 3 million customers with their remittance service and most recently they even launched Passbook, a digital banking account designed specifically for immigrants and multinationals in the US.
Having the right company culture is also extremely important for Matt. In the very first month of the company, all three co-founders had an offsite specifically to put together their cultural values and decide what kind of company culture they wanted to create. Over time, those cultural values are reviewed annually and continue to evolve and improve.
Defining how people interact and how people get things done is incredibly important to build a scalable business and taking control and being able to define what that means for every company is crucial. In Matt’s own words, ”if you don’t define it, your culture will be defined for you (…) and I think [cultural values] shouldn’t be used as a celebratory chest thumping, we’re awesome at all these values, they should be used as a North Star.”
Leading up to the COVID crisis, over 60% of remittances were initiated and sent through physical retail locations. Remittance senders (typically immigrants) traditionally trust the corner store and historically prefer being able to meet the people managing their transaction. And although this trend was starting to change and customers were increasingly more digital, nothing could have accelerated digital adoption as much as COVID has. Since customers did not feel safe going to physical locations or since these places were closed, customers quickly adopted Remitly’s service, which has led to very rapid growth for the company.
Moreover, Remitly’s customers are some of the most affected by the effects of this crisis and Matt stressed on how inspired he’s been to see their clients fight through hardships and make incredible sacrifices to continue support their families and providing fro their loved ones back home — “It’s been an honor to serve them during this time and I think that the only thing I ask myself frequently is (…) there are a lot of customers we haven’t served out there. How can we do more? And how can we do better for our customers? Because they need our service. Now more than ever.”
Matthew Oppenheimer is Co-Founder and CEO at Remitly. The inspiration behind Remitly came when Matt was working for Barclays in Kenya and saw how difficult it was to send and receive money overseas. Matt was drawn to the global impact his business could have: remittances eclipse foreign aid in improving global wealth equality and give people who receive them upward mobility. He began working on the problem immediately as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Highway 12 Ventures in Idaho and launched the company from Techstars in Seattle. Matt was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 in the Pacific Northwest and has been recognized as a Puget Sound Business Journal 40 Under 40 honoree for his work with Remitly. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Dartmouth College.
Founded initially to disrupt the nearly $600 billion global remittance industry, Remitly is now transforming the lives of millions of immigrants and their families with the most trusted financial services products in the world. Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent and more affordable through its global network. Remitly’s reliable and easy-to-use mobile app eliminates the long wait times, complexities and fees typical of traditional remittance processes, returning millions of dollars in savings and spending power to immigrants every year. Remitly is also expanding its portfolio to include additional critical financial services for immigrants. The company’s Passbook offering is a modern banking solution that eliminates fees and other common barriers to creating a bank account, and introduces new cross-border money transfer benefits. Established in 2011 and headquartered in Seattle, Remitly is backed by more than a dozen industry-leading investors, including Prosus’s PayU, Generation Investment Management and Bezos Expeditions. The company operates globally, with offices in London, Kraków, Manila and Managua. For more information, visit Remitly.com.
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