Out with the neobank and in with Dubai : 5 questions with Remitly’s Bridget Abraham

  • Changes are afoot at Remitly. Its neobank called Passbook is being discontinued, ad. As the company drills down on its core-remittance customers.
  • The company is continuing to grow its footprint, as it addingadds Dubai to its growing outbound remittance network.

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Out with the neobank and in with Dubai : 5 questions with Remitly’s Bridget Abraham

In 2020, Remitly launched Passbook, a bank for people without a Social Security Number in the US.

Since Remitly focuses on immigrants, Passbook showed promise and seemed like a product that could tie into the company’s larger focus on underbanked communities. But fast forward to 2023, the company has discontinued Passbook and will no longer accept new accounts for its neobank.

While Passbook is out of the picture, Remitly is still pushing onto expanding its horizons. Last year, the company expanded to Japan and New Zealand and has recently added Dubai to its growing footprint. Its expansion into the Middle East has been cemented by a brand-new office in Dubai’s International Financial Center (DIFC).

Remitly's Passbook product, that has not been discontinued.

We sat down with Bridget Abraham, Chief Compliance Officer of Remitly, to find out what’s behind the recent push and pull at the company.

1. Remitly recently closed down Passbook. What thinking was behind this decision?

We've made the strategic decision to narrow our current focus to developing products for our core remittance customers who are primarily banked and underbanked immigrants. We’re excited at the opportunity ahead to continue creating trusted and personalized experiences with our localization expertise at scale. We are also using our data-driven approach to continue to innovatively serve our remittance product customers.

2. At the same time, Remitly has been expanding. How did Remitly go about choosing Dubai as its most recent location and what challenges underlie the decision?

Expansion to the UAE was a natural choice for Remitly as the country's remittance base is strong, with immigrants making up almost 90 percent of the country’s population. It also has the second-highest global volume of remittance originations. Historically, the majority of remittance transactions completed in the UAE were made through in-person cash transactions at brick-and-mortar stalls. But Remitly’s UAE expansion will help mitigate the traditional barriers to sending cross-border. Additionally, the UAE’s movement towards a cashless economy makes Remitly’s platform timely and relevant for the population.

When it comes to expansion, some challenges that arise when choosing how and where to move next include ensuring the appropriate investments around compliance, customer support, and marketing. These are all efforts that need to be localized across regions and require our close attention.

3. How have the recent economic headwinds impacted Remitly consumers? Are there any stark changes in how and where consumers are transferring their money?

Our customers are resilient even in financially difficult times. The majority of the funds they send home to their loved ones support basic living expenses including food, shelter, and medical expenses, and are highly non-discretionary. This support to their families back home is even more critical during times of economic uncertainty. We survey our customers regularly. The results remain consistent: during our most recent survey, the vast majority of customers expect to send money at the same frequency, or more often, than they did in the past year.

4. Transparency is becoming central to how the financial services industry operates and communicates with its consumers. What are some of the challenges that come with being more transparent as a financial service provider?

Proper financial education is a key component of increasing customer transparency. For Remitly, our customer base is comprised of immigrants. When immigrants move to a new country, one of the first things to do is figure out a way to store and send money safely. In order to contextualize the opportunities at hand and methods of acquiring those banking methods, it’s crucial to have an understanding of financial literacy. 

5. How do you communicate the use of consumers' personal data in a way that makes sense to the user?

At Remitly, customer centricity is a main priority. Given the nature of financial services and the ability to move money across borders, we have to collect certain personal and sensitive information to help our customers do that. In order to inform our customers of what kind of data we collect and why, we provide transparency throughout our user experience, disclosures, and in our Privacy Policy. We also take security seriously and use industry standards to protect the information customers provide us with.

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