Banking Start-Up Sees Huge Profits To Be Made from Europe’s Migrants

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Such is the scale of migration into the UK and around Europe that new banking service firms are developing products to cater to Europe’s migrants, hoping to turn a quick profit.

One such product, recently launched by London-based start-up Monese, allows anyone in Europe to open a British bank account in just three minutes from an app on their smartphones – and it already has 56,000 potential customers waiting to use its services. “We live in a borderless world where people are free to move around as they wish, study, work and live where they please,” the company’s website reads. “It’s high time banking caught up.”

The app is based on a platform which is enabled to verify the user’s identity, meaning that they can be approved for a new account quickly, even if they are new to the country. Mulenga Agley, Monese’s VP of Growth, told Business Insider: “What Monese was set up to do was to provide banking on demand. The problem we’re really focusing on is the fact that when you arrive in the UK from another country it’s incredibly difficult to open a bank account.”

“There’s a couple of reasons for that. Outdated systems make it very difficult for the high street banks to validate that someone is who they say they are. If you’ve just arrived, the banks will go to Experian and try and get your credit data and when they don’t get a hit on you, they just won’t open the account. It also takes weeks even if you are successful.”

Monese’s app pulls data from the user’s home country and cross references it with selfie and a picture of the users’ passport, both of which can be taken on the phone, enabling the user to bypass the long wait time. It also enables users to hold multiple currencies in their accounts simultaneously, allowing users to bypass costly foreign exchange fees.

Although it is not the only start-up banking platform, it is the only one specifically targeting migrants to the UK. And with 636,000 people arriving in the UK from abroad in the year to March 2015 alone, according to the Office for National Statistics, the company is enjoying a huge potential market.

Agley points out that the British market is only the beginning – some 3.4 million people move across Europe each year.

The first accounts arranged through Monese were only opened earlier this year, and the service is still invitation only. But attracting interest through social media alone, Agley says the company already has a waiting list of 56,000 people waiting to use its services.

Monese’s founder and CEO Norris Koppel adds: “We’ve paid zero fees to acquire this customer base. The interest is so huge that people are just coming to us and joining the queue.”

Monese raised $1.8 million (£1.2 million) in its first round of funding in May this year. Koppel has high hopes of the company going even further next year.  

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