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Remitly Providing Much-Needed Money Transfers to Immigrants During COVID-19

Remitly is doing the seemingly impossible during COVID-19 – thriving.

The Seattle-based remittance startup saw 200% new customer growth year over year in May, and recently raised $85 million in equity. The company allows immigrants to affordably send money to their relatives abroad from 17 send-countries to 57 receive-countries.

Remitly’s growth is due in large part to consumers’ increased reliance on digital solutions during COVID-19. Customers can quickly and easily send money to relatives via their phone or computer through the platform.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, around 60 percent of remittances were still being sent from physical cash locations. Now, many customers have been unable to leave their homes or don’t feel safe doing so, or their brick-and-mortar providers have had to close their doors or limit operating hours,” said Remitly North America Head of Communications Kendall Sadler. “As a result, we’re seeing a rapid shift to digital solutions as immigrants search for safe money-sending alternatives in order to continue sending money home to their loved ones during this crisis.”

Through its remittance business, Remitly has served more than 3 million customers to date, across Asia, Europe, and North America.

The company’s main charge is to eliminate barriers faced by immigrants looking to enter the financial system.

“Every year immigrants lose $40 billion in excessive, obscure remittance fees as they send money back home to loved ones who rely on it for basic living necessities like rent, healthcare, tuition and food,” said Sadler.

The idea behind Remitly came to CEO Matt Oppenheimer while he was working for Barclays in Kenya. Not only did Oppenheimer see how important remittances were for local residents, it also gave him insights into how costly and ineffective the process could be.

“That up-close look at remittances was an eye-opener,” said Sadler. “He became convinced there was a better way.”

In 2011, Oppenheimer co-founded Remitly, and today, the company helps millions of customers send tens of millions of transactions annually.

The financial system can be a tough nut to crack for anyone, let alone immigrants. Those who come to America from overseas face linguistic and cultural barriers. Sometimes immigrants come from countries where banks are corrupt and find it hard to trust financial institutions.

Research shows that immigrants are more likely to be “unbanked” than native U.S. citizens. A lack of adequate financial services can hinder one’s ability to obtain financial wellness.

Remitly helps immigrants in the US enter the banking system with Passbook, a banking solution built specifically for immigrants, which Remitly launched early this year.

“The hard work and contributions of immigrants who are working abroad fuels growth in the places they reside, while the money they send home creates opportunity and brighter futures in the places they left behind,” said Sadler.

Sunrise Banks partnered with Remitly because it believes in its mission.

“We share Remitly’s commitment to doing good, and this new collaboration allows us to expand on Sunrise’s mission of providing products and services that improve the economic well-being of our clients,” said Sunrise Banks CEO David Reiling when Passbook was launched.

Digital remittances show no sign of slowing up anytime soon. And Remitly is committed to serving the immigrant population.

“The resilience of our customers and their steadfast commitment to their loved ones continues to motivate us, and is at the heart of everything we do,” said Sadler.

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