UAE-based NOW Money, a fintech company that offers digital payroll and accounts services with Shariah compliant options to underserved migrant workers, has secured US$7 million for its expansion to the rest of the GCC region, where an estimated 51% of the region’s total population comprise migrant workers and their families.
According to the World Bank, as at 2019, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE collectively host over 30 million migrants, with a large portion of them being low-income, unbanked employees.
NOW Money offers a service to companies that allows them to open digital accounts for their low-income employees, who will also receive a debit card and access to a mobile app for their banking needs. The funding round, said to be the most multinational fintech deal to date in the Middle East, will help the company, which is currently only serving the UAE market, to begin setting up local infrastructure in Saudi Arabia’s capital city.
While the company is not officially certified as Shariah compliant, the founders had told IFN that NOW Money operates under Shariah principles given its Muslim customer base, which is also helpful as it establishes its presence in Saudi Arabia, whose fintech landscape runs very closely under Shariah compliance.
“The investment has brought us the financial support needed to scale our expansion plans across the GCC,” said Ian Dillon, the co-founder of NOW Money, which was first set up in 2016 as the first fintech company in the Gulf to use digital banking technology to provide financial services including low-cost remittance to migrant workers.
“The success of mobile money in South and East Asia gave us faith that mobile banking would be a sustainable solution for the millions of people who find themselves overlooked by traditional Middle Eastern banking options,” noted Katharine Budd, also a co-founder of NOW Money.
The funding round was led by fintech investor Anthemis Group, which was joined by a consortium of investors that included Knuru Capital, Wamda, Commercial Bank of Dubai, DIFC Fintech Fund, Accion Venture Lab, Greenhouse Capital and Hambro Perks Oryx Fund, among others. NOW Money also received a card scheme from Visa and funding from the UAE-hosted Expo 2020. The GCC fintech sector has seen a flurry of activity since the start of the year. Last month, Islamic fintech company FlexxPay, which enables Saudi and Emirati employees to have early access to their earned salaries and income, also closed a pre-series A round worth US$3 million to support its expansion into Bahrain.