US firm says PH is biggest, most mature remittance market globally

Apart from being the call center capital of the world, the Philippines is also home to the largest and most vibrant remittance market on the planet.

Remitly global chief product officer Karim Meghji

Remitly global chief product officer Karim Meghji

This is according to Seattle-based online remittance firm Remitly, whose 400 employees out of its 600 global workforce are located in the Philippines.

“Close to $30 billion in remittances flowed into the Philippines in 2016, according to the World Bank. With such robust activity coupled with consistent growth year-on-year, it makes perfect sense for Remitly to bolster operations here,” said Remitly global chief product officer Karim Meghji.

Meghji said Remitly processed $1 billion in sales transaction for the Philippines last year. Globally, it handled a $4 billion-worth of transactions.

The US firm said no other country in the world is more familiar — or more dependent — with money remittance services than the Philippines.

With more than 10 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) stationed across the globe, the influx of foreign currency accounts for 9.8% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and peaks during the Christmas holiday season, it noted.

While Remitly’s Philippine office is composed mainly of customer service representatives (CSRs), the company said it is working to hire software engineers in the country to help improve its products and services.

Fresh from raising $115 million in Series D Funding, Meghji said that Remitly is looking at adopting new technologies to improve its remittance service.

Just recently the company created a service that enabled Filipino seafarers to send money without leaving the ship. The service saves workers up to 8% in remittance fees and precious time spent waiting in long lines at port.

The company even enables its own employees to help Filipino students pay for their education costs under the Remitly Scholars Program (RSP). In just three years, about P7.65 million has been sent to scholars.

“We’re always on the lookout for new trends and how we could use these to improve our product to give customers the best experience possible,” said Meghji.

This could include digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Etherium whose adoptions are growing exponentially online.

Meghji said Remitly hasn’t adopted Bitcoins yet, but it is keeping a keen eye on this new technology. “We’re always looking at various digital payment options. We’re not taking Bitcoins yet but we’re watching it,” he said.

One of the services it tried to introduce in the country – but failed – is the digital wallet via GCash. “We first launch in PH but it didn’t work. We learned a lot from that. This market is very influential because it’s big and mature,” Meghji said.

The company also has not integrated PayPal at this point. “It’s not relevant to our business model because users can connect their debit and credit cards to our system,” the executive said.

Stressing that technology is making its service more affordable, Meghji said the company is bullish that its rates will even become cheaper to Remityly users, particularly OFWs.

“There is a change happening in the remittance business now. But there’s more tailwinds than headwinds. So far, we’ve been able to sustain our growth,” he said.

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