Pandemic business is booming for a Seattle company that enables immigrants to send money to overseas relatives through their mobile phones.

Remitly announced Wednesday that, since February, its mobile wallet network has expanded to 300 million customers from 160 million after the company provided more money-forwarding options for immigrants living in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Nick Moiseff, the company’s vice president of product, said demand for mobile wallets has surged during the pandemic as users forgo more traditional brick-and-mortar companies used to transfer cash.

“Given the COVID-19 scenario, they can’t go in and send physical cash,” Moiseff said. “So, they’re moving online to players like Remitly. So, we’re seeing about a 200% year-over-year growth in new customer acquisition.”

For those in other countries receiving the money, he added, the mobile wallet transactions also simplify matters “because cash pickup locations and the traditional ways of receiving funds are either closed, or they have limited hours of operation, or folks are afraid to physically go into branches to pick up funds.”

The most popular destinations of money sent overseas by Remitly’s U.S. customers include Africa, Asia and Central America.

Advertising

Remitly was founded in 2011 after company CEO Matt Oppenheimer, working in Kenya for Barclay’s, realized how difficult it was to send money internationally. He also noticed that while people were increasingly using cellphones to communicate with friends and relatives overseas, there was no easy way to send them money by phone.

The company touts itself as the world’s top independent provider of such services for immigrants, disrupting the $600 billion global remittance industry and market share of longtime brick-and-mortar leaders like Western Union.

Data gathered from Statista by BuyShare estimates the mobile wallet industry has grown 50% since the pandemic began. Remitly has added 11 partners to more than two dozen others to help meet that demand.

Remitly customers can send money through about 25 mobile wallet brands, including M-PESA, MTN Mobile Money, bKash, Gcash, Airtel Mobile Money, GoPay and Ovo — many of which are accessible through Remitly’s partnership with Thunes, a leading payments network for emerging markets.

“Our robust network interconnects payment providers worldwide, and enables interoperability between payment systems,” Peter De Caluwe, Thunes CEO, said in a news release Wednesday. “By leveraging our network, Remitly customers will now enjoy greater convenience and choice when sending remittances.”

Much of the mobile wallet growth is in emerging markets like Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana in Africa, as well as Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Moiseff said the company’s client base is “overwhelmingly immigrant” with typical Seattle customers being “a lot of tech workers — Amazon, Microsoft, etc. — that are relatively new to the country and are supporting family, or paying off loans and things back home. So, they’re using Remitly to send that money back home, either for their loved ones or their own personal reasons.”