An Exclusive interview with Ismail Ahmed, CEO of WorldRemit
What do you think makes WorldRemit unique and different to its competitors?
WorldRemit enables customers to send from the comfort of their home or office at very low fees. We also offer the largest range of payout options including instant cash-pickup, bank deposit, transfers to mobile accounts and airtime top-up and the largest forms of payment ranging from debit and credit cards to innovative local payment methods such as Sofortbanking, iDeal, Pingit, Interac Online, POLi and Faster Payments. These offer unprecedented convenience which no other competitor can match.
Convenience and security is now the core determinant for choosing a money transfer agent. New innovative methods like mobile money (M-Pesa), online transfer are now in operation in the UK. Is WorldRemit thinking of taking advantage of new innovative technology to offer a convenient and better service?
WorldRemit is at the forefront of the new technologies that are shaping the money transfer industry. Our low fees starting from £2.99 have made it possible for diaspora members to send very small amounts to mobile accounts. Those that can’t afford £2.99 have the option of sending the money as airtime top-up which has no minimum fees. We see Kenyans, Ugandans and Tanzanians who send airtime top-ups as low as £1. These are often for emergencies where a family member sends a text to a diaspora member in Europe and asks them to send a small amount they need to top-up their mobile or pay fees for services. Because of their high minimum fees, this has not been possible with bigger competitors, which dominate these corridors.
What is the most popular service at WorldRemit with Diasporans from East Africa?
Transfers to mobile wallets and airtime top-up are the most popular services with our customers from East Africa. Across Africa we see a shift from traditional cash-pickup service to mobile payments and bank deposits.
We are seeing mass emigration of Africans back to Africa from the Diaspora; does this worry you as those who remit money are going back?
Diaspora members who return to Africa often maintain their links with their host countries. Since we send money from Africa and within Africa, they continue to use our services for business or personal transfers. It is worth noting that the volume of inter-Africa remittances is much bigger than those from Europe to Africa. We also offer "Send Money to Yourself" service that enables diaspora members traveling to East Africa to collect cash from local agents or transfer to mobiles using their cards. In most parts of the region, either there are no cash machines or banks charge prohibitive cash advance fees.
What services do you offer and how long does it take for the recipient to receive the money?
In addition to the services I mentioned earlier, Cash pick-up, mobile payments and airtime top-up are available immediately. Bank deposits vary depending on the country. In some countries such as Nigeria, we offer instant bank deposit service.
You have expanded your online money transfer services to Ghanaians in mainland Europe, are you planning the same to East Africa?
All our remittance corridors are available from mainland Europe.
How do you manage to maintain very low fee chargea and, will the low fees be maintained for long term?
We don’t have the large overheads of the traditional money transfer companies with very large network of agent locations. Our traditional competitors rely on independent agents who sometimes pose compliance and credit risks for their principal. If traditional companies end the relationship with an agent, the agent often takes most of the customers with them as they are the ones with a direct relationship with customers. We don’t have any of these issues. We have a direct relationship with customers and we don’t face credit and compliance risks associated with corner shops who do money transfer as a side business.
Do you think remittances from the Diaspora will have a long term, sustainable impact on African economies?
International remittance provide a lifeline to most economies in Africa. In some countries up to 40% of houses rely exclusively on remittances for their livelihoods.