Over the past decade we have seen many examples of how new companies employ technology to improve the financial lives of very specific demographics. Brightwell is one such company, and they are solving the financial challenges experienced by overseas workers.
Brightwell was born a decade ago as a prepaid card initiative of a Chicago-based bank, CEO Mike Gaburo said. Over time they realized many industries attract workers from around the globe who face unique challenges in sending their money back home, so the concept was spun out from the bank and developed as its own business, an aggregator of cross-border payment options providing access to companies like Transpay, Cambridge, Western Union and MoneyGram.
“We have lots of good partners to provide a variety of good services,” Mr. Gaburo said. “There is no one right way to move payments across the border.”
Cruise lines, hotels and non-governmental organizations are some of the sectors attracting globetrotting workers, and paying them can be a huge problem, Mr. Gaburo explained. Many cruise workers, for example, spend much of their year traveling from port to port working 70-hour weeks. On one of their twice-monthly paydays, assuming they are in port that day, do they want to spend much of a few hours on shore putting their finances in order?
Brightwell’s 87,000 users hail from more than 130 countries. Their two biggest countries of origin are India and the Philippines, which happen to be two of the three biggest countries to receive remittance payments. Overall, Brightwell users conducted 600,000 remittance transactions in 2017.
And those customers prefer to send those remittances in specific ways for good reasons, Mr. Gaburo explained. The Philippine government mandates overseas workers send their payments back to a bank account. The Indian government’s recent actions against cash have their citizens concerned about exchange rates. Knowing these differences and user time constraints meant Brightwell had to prioritize user experience, Mr. Gaburo said. Within a few clicks the user must be able to reach their desired payment rail.
By serving as a link between remittance providers and customers, Brightwell brings assurances to both sides, Mr. Gaburo said. Remittance partners are receiving payments from reputable companies employing the workers. Individual users have access to recognizable brands.
Those users may also be first generation digital users, so Brightwell educates them on how to safely maximize their experience, Mr. Gaburo explained. They are warned about the increasing rate of phishing scams and have access to training topics such as budgeting and peer support.
“Two important facts are where are they working and how can we support them,” Mr. Gaburo said. “We want to make things seamless for a group of people who need help with a noble purpose.”
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