Remitly expands beyond remittances, launches new banking service for immigrants

The Remitly team. (Remitly Photo)

Remitly, the well-funded Seattle startup that helps people send money overseas, is expanding beyond remittances for the first time and launching a new banking service designed specifically for immigrants.

The banking solution, Passbook by Remitly, represents the company’s second major pillar in its push to build financial services for immigrants.

Every Passbook customer gets a Visa debit card, building on a previous partnership between the payments giant and Remitly, and the service accepts forms of ID commonly held by immigrants.

“Our vision has always been much larger than remittances,” Remitly CEO Matt Oppenheimer told GeekWire. “We want to bring peace of mind to immigrants with a suite of financial services that work for them and that they can trust.”

Oppenheimer said Remitly’s banking initiative has a chance to be even bigger than the remittance business that has propelled the startup to the No. 4 ranking on the GeekWire 200 and helped it land nearly $300 million in lifetime funding. Remitly has grown to more than 1,000 employees across its Seattle HQ and six other offices in Spokane, Wash., London, Dublin, Krakow, Manila, and Managua.

Remitly will offer banking customers discounts on remittances and is planning further integrations of its services. Remitly makes money on Passbook by taking a piece of the “interchange revenue” — the fees paid by stores and merchants that take debit and credit cards.

What makes Passbook unique, Oppenheimer said, is its specific focus on immigrants. Immigrants earn over $1.3 trillion in wages annually and their spending power tops $900 billion, according to data cited by Remitly. But, the company says, they have not had access to financial services designed for them.

Remitly doesn’t require a social security number to sign up. The company can verify identity digitally and accepts forms of ID that include Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, passports and foreign government-issued documentation like the Matricula Consular ID. Oppenheimer said there isn’t another digital banking product that can create accounts using these forms of official identification.

Remitly raised a $135 million equity and debt round in July. It is on the cusp of joining an elite group of Seattle-area “unicorn” companies. The startup employs more than 200 people in Seattle.