The Fintech startup helping migrants: MAGNiTT interviews Dubai-based Rise

Following their recent seven-digit investment, led by MEVP, MAGNiTT catches up with Dubai-based Rise, a fintech startup, to learn more about the company and discuss Fintech and their growth plans. 

- To start, tell us briefly about Rise in layman's terms. How exactly does it work?

Rise gives access to essential financial services – bank accounts, investments, insurance and credit for modest income migrants. Today a Rise customer can open a no minimum balance, no minimum salary bank account, buy insurance protection for themselves in UAE & their family back home, start saving for their retirement in their home country, get an emergency loan in their home country and buy products on instalments from Carrefour.

- What's Rise's big-picture vision for the future?

250 million migrants globally support 1 billion people – sending home USD 700 billion every year. The sending of money/remittance effectively means the person making the income is giving control on their finances to someone they trust. 93% of migrants sending money home have no control on how that money is spent. Imagine doing that for years and years on end. 

To date, several companies have focussed on making the cost of these remittances cheaper. We believe even if it is free, the idea of giving up control of 70-80% of your income to someone else over 10 years is ludicrous.

We are building a better way for migrants to manage their money. We believe migrants should manage their money just as seamlessly as people whose families live down the road. A billion people globally depend on someone living in another country to help them build a better future – we are making that process seamless, easier and putting the migrant in control.

- Safe to assume that after the most recent raise, Rise is going to have some exciting growth plans. Can you share some of Rise's plans for expansion with us (geographic, product, talent)?

We remain committed to building the world’s first migrant bank. We will use this funding to deepen our already comprehensive product set – including launching some unique migrant centric financial products , expand our home country reach beyond India, Indonesia & Philippines that we serve today by venturing into Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

- What do you believe are the biggest challenges while scaling, specifically within MENA?

Financial services is a highly regulated industry, which means that conducting any financial services in any market is subject to regulations and market needs there. This means that any product expansion has to be done in full compliance with local authorities. What is unique about us is that we have two focus areas for geographic expansion – home country and host country. 

Once we have partnerships in any home country – they scale across markets – i.e the ability to originate loans / investments in India is easily scalable for customers in KSA / Bahrain without much additional work. The host country side is where we need to have local partnerships lined up for things to work as seamlessly, which takes time.

- In your opinion, what are some of the most exciting things happening in the Fintech space (globally) right now?

The first wave of fintech was really meant to make current financial services easier – for e.g. the aggregation platforms or comparison sites – which made it easier for people to get existing services. The second wave was driven by building bridges or plumbing for entities not connected to get connected – e.g. payment gateways & API networks like plaid.

We are now entering the third phase which is community driven. Finance is the biggest commodity there is in the world and the only way to differentiate is through a service and community focus. This is why you see banks like Aspiration (which focuses on doing good) or services like Revolut (which focuses on people who travel)  not considering a whole market, but on one specific niche. We believe community based financial services allows you to re-imagine how finance should work for specific communities – which is what we are doing for migrants.

- With COVID-19 uncertainty and ambiguity leading to social distancing, where do you think this leaves consumer Fintech in MENA in the short and long-term?

We think this is a fluid situation and it will take a few weeks before we have clarity on its true impact. Right now what matters most is we comply with local authorities and maintain social distancing as well as keep safe.  

For our customers, we are doing what we can to help them understand and react to the Covid situation. We are working with CDA Abu Dhabi to help our customers understand how to be safe with Covid. Beyond the health issues , we are seeing additional challenges arising from inability to travel. Migrants plan their travel back home months in advance – for e.g. Easter is a busy travel period for many and this year that may not be possible. This creates challenges, but also an opportunity for us to find ways to help our customers.

We are reviewing our product roadmap to adapt to the current situation as well as the near future.   

- Finally, what advice would you give yourself 5 years ago? :)

Focus on the customers – that is the only thing that matters. Build for the long term, too many people focus on short term gains and long term focus is a big competitive edge.

Want to know more about the key trends in the FinTech ecosystem and what drives them? Access our full 100+ page MENA FinTech report HERE