Rewire, the Israeli fintech launched to solve the cross-border financial needs of migrants
People who work and study outside their home countries, how many obstacles are they facing with the financial system that domestic banking customers rarely experience? However, an Israeli startup, with offices in Tel Aviv and Amsterdam, helps migrant workers manage their finances more simply both in their country of origin and where they work.
Founded in 2015 by Guy Kashtan (CEO), Adi Ben Dayan (VP R&D), Sa'ar Yahalom, (CTO) and Or Benoz, Rewire is a cross-border financial services platform for migrants worldwide. To answer the unique cross-border needs of migrants, Rewire harnesses the power of innovative technology and develops strategic partnerships with leading financial institutions in the migrant’s country of origin and in their new home. From remittance and payment accounts to upcoming advanced financial services such as bill payments, savings, and mortgage loans, Rewire is able to provide innovative and accessible financial services tailored for migrants.
A fintech for migrant workers
Rewire manages several online global communities for its diverse customer base who have migrated to Europe from over 20 countries in Asia and Africa such as the Philippines, Nigeria, India, Thailand, and China. With a Migrants at the Center approach, innovative technology, strategic partnerships, and values of equality, inclusion and social good, Rewire is the migrant’s financial partner, wherever their home is.
Rewire's application, which is available in 8 languages, currently allows approximately 600,000 migrant workers in Israel and dozens of European countries to send money to their families and make transfers at more than 1,000 deposit points at places like Super-Pharm, Postal Bank, and GMT branches.
Answering the cross-border financial needs of migrants
“The first thing any migrant needs is the ability to send money back home,” said Saar Yahalom, Co-Founder and CTO of Rewire. But soon after the Rewire team developed a solution for remittances, they started to receive a flood of requests to help open bank accounts, store value, and attain debit cards. “We understood that there was something much larger that was missing,” Yahalom said. “Our customers were having a tough time accessing basic financial services that for someone integrated into the environment were trivial to obtain”.
Basically, the solutions provided by Rewire are perfectly tailored to those who cannot open a conventional bank account, and working migrants make up a large part of Rewire's customer base "At our core, we aim to create financial inclusion. Everything that we do at Rewire is aimed to help migrants to build a more financially-secure future for themselves and their families”, added Guy Kashtan.
Direct Partnerships due to Directly Transfers money among International Financial Corridors
The main key to Rewire’s success is that the company does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution to cross-border financial services. Instead, the fintech builds strategic home country partnerships that meet the unique needs of each market it serves. The platform’s functionality stems from the connection between the IBAN account and the debit card, which has a global reach. More specifically, migrants gain access to international banking services and direct deposit, and can transfer money to recipients at home.
International partnerships make those transactions cost-effective from the user’s point of view. Moreover, Rewire also partners with top banks in countries such as Nigeria and Thailand and makes additional lower-cost transfers and exchange services. “If you want to serve a wide range of countries, you go to an aggregator, and you pay the middleman,” Yahalom said. “But we want to reduce costs, so we don’t try to serve every country. Instead, we try to serve the countries we’re in very, very well.”
Hi-Tech, Logistics and Simplicity
Another component of the Rewire value proposition is its simplicity. As a tech platform that functions as a bank with an international footprint, Rewire has the tools that solve many of the logistical problems migrants traditionally face in getting up and running in a new country. “Banks in Europe correctly focus on their domestic audience — they serve the average customer very well,” Yahalom said. “And neobanks serve millennial Europeans. Although they both do an excellent job of giving the average European a very good current account, they’re not focusing on other populations.”
As stated by the company, Rewire begins by using technology to overcome the bureaucracy of opening a bank account. While it’s routine for a domestic financial consumer to present identity and location verification documentation, it’s not that simple for someone to establish themselves in a new country. They may face language and cultural barriers, professional and educational challenges, and even the expectations of those back home who may rely on them for support.
“So instead of relying on proof of address documentation, we do a geolocation verification, and for the identity, we do a selfie verification against ID,” Yahalom said. “And right away, we provide the customer with a virtual debit card so they can start purchasing what they need online.”
The virtual card is powered by an app that lets users budget and manage their finances from a unified interface. Within a few days, customers receive their physical credit card, backed by Mastercard, works everywhere, and carries no annual fees or ATM withdrawal fees. The card helps new arrivals fit in with their peers.
A smart solution for the underserved migrant market
Rewire helps bring cross-border financial services into the mainstream by smoothing out transactional corridors and creating a unified solution. Its international online banking services allow its customers to support their developing home countries.
According to Yahalom, that was possible by the unique confluence of forces that accelerate global financial integration, “when we started in 2015, a lot of our customers still used feature phones, but now they all have smartphones. And we can actually provide very sophisticated services to all of them,” he said. “Regulations are also changing, I think, at the fastest pace in the last century.”
Meanwhile, Rewire is also working hard to help more potential customers catch up to today’s market. The platform’s community features are tailored to specific markets and reflect cultural patterns. So what’s next?
In August, the fintech announced that it has been acquired by Remitly, a money transfer company. The American company will pay $80 million for the Israeli startup in a deal that combines shares and cash and is "the largest in its history.” The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2022 subject to Israeli and Dutch regulatory approvals. As stated by the company, with the plan to enter new markets and continue the development of new financial services, the Rewire will recruit dozens of employees in Israel during the coming year and will expand the team located in the office in Amsterdam, which centres its activities in Europe.