The global industry for international money transfers, long dominated by Western Union and Moneygram, is estimated to reach over $900 billion in five years. By the time it does, though, the marketplace is likely to look different, reshaped by a number of new entrants shaking up the business.
One of those growing disruptors is Remitly.
The Seattle-based company went public on the Nasdaq last week, raising nearly $300 million. After soaring $10 from its IPO price of about $43 per share, the stock has since been trading around $37 per share, putting the company’s value at about $6 billion.
Designed with immigrants in mind, the platform is geared for people who make up the bulk of the remittance market — workers in developed nations like the United States who send money back to family and friends in home countries.
Matthew Oppenheimer, Shivaas Gulati and Josh Hug co-founded Remitly in 2011, meeting through the accelerator Techstars’s network. The trio set out to create a solution to the antiquated methods of wiring money, steeped in high fees, slow transmission times and less than friendly customer service.
Oppenheimer saw a clear need to overhaul an existing outdated system when he was working for Barclays in Kenya. Friends in Nairobi showed him how unnecessarily tedious and time-consuming transferring funds internationally was typically. The experience inspired Oppenheimer to create a streamlined solution to the outdated global remittance sector. Co-founder Gulati is originally from India and also encountered frustrations sending money internationally, according to Remitly’s blog.
Remitly now has 5 million users who send and receive money in 75 currencies. Funds can be sent from 17 countries, namely the US, Canada and the UK, to 115 countries including India, the Philippines, Columbia and Mexico, through the platform. Remitly has received various rounds of investment from PayU, Visa, Owl Rock Capital and Top Tier Capital Partners, among other companies, totaling $505 million, according to Crunchbase. Remitly employs more than 1,000 people and has seven offices around the globe.
But Remitly is not the only fintech company to modernize international money transfers through mobile apps. The competition is getting fierce. Emerging platforms include London-based Zepz, (which acquired WorldRemit and Sendwave this year), Wise (formerly TransferWise) which went public this past July and San Francisco’s Xoom, acquired by PayPal in 2015, among others. Each company offers services with slight differences around fees, transfer speed, countries served, limits on amounts sent and recipients’ use of funds, such as payment for goods or services.
All of these remittance mobile apps are taking on traditional bank and wire transfers that often have high fees, and the colossal Western Union, which has been sending wire transfers since 1871, with its 525,000 agent locations and a mobile app that rolled out in 2016.
What sets Remitly apart from legacy wire transfer companies and the newer streamlined remittance mobile apps is the value placed on helping working immigrants. Remitly is specifically designed for working immigrants in Europe, North America and Australia, who send money to family and friends living primarily in developing countries.
The company’s management has been vocal about supporting working immigrants. In 2018, Oppenheimer, now the company’s CEO, wrote a Seattle Times oped about fixing the US’s broken immigration system, including H1-B caps. He called the previous administration’s Muslim ban “despicable” and the funding debates over the boarder wall “ridiculous.” He added that attacks on those with DACA status and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) have no place in politics. “We should instead be lifting up those who help build the backbone of our economy and culture,” he wrote.
When Remitly had its IPO last week, Oppenheimer called it an “important milestone” in a Seattle Times interview and that it was a key step to “transform the lives of immigrants and their families by providing the most trusted financial services on the planet.” Oppenheimer also told Fortune that he’s excited about Remitly’s “longer-term vision of transforming the lives of immigrants and their families.”
According to a regulatory filing, Remitly generated revenue—primarily through fees on transfers and currency exchanges—of $126.6 million during the fiscal year ending December 31, 2019 and $257 million during 2020; that’s a year-over-year growth of approximately 103%. However, despite strong 2021 growth, Remitly currently remains unprofitable.
Oppenheimer says that Remitly currently only has 1% of the global remittance market and plans on growing its customer base throughout the world. Last year, Remitly launched Passbook, a banking service for immigrants, which is even open to those without Social Security Numbers. Thus far, there are no plans for any crypto-based services, but Oppenheimer has said the company is looking out for opportunities in that space.