Digital wallets and online services had been gaining slow popularity in the Arab world up until COVID-19 caused an eruption in demand in relation to such apps.
The UAE has been of particular interest during this period with several fintech companies putting their foot down in the country. The latest to do so is TransferWise, a global low-cost online money transfer service. The fintech company has officially launched in the UAE, just six months after obtaining its license from Abu Dhabi Global Market's Financial Services Regulatory Authority.
"The UAE is one of the most important remittance markets in the world, and we're delighted to be bringing the first fully online money transfers to the country," Kristo Käärmann, chief executive and co-founder of TransferWise, told The National.
Considering the UAE is a hub for expats, it only makes sense that such a fintech solution would enter the Gulf market.
According to The National, about $46 billion were sent from the UAE in 2018 in global remittances. So TransferWise, which was founded in the UK in 2011, is entering a market where sending money abroad is incredibly common. The company allows people to send money abroad at the mid-market exchange rate, charging a fee for every transfer. The company claims to save users $1 billion a year when juxtaposing it with a bank transfer and its respective fees.
In the UAE, the cost of "sending money abroad was up to two times cheaper with TransferWise compared to six banks and brokers," according to a study cited by The National.
TransferWise processes $5 billion in customer payments every month; its convenient, cheap, and fast solutions are to be credited for its popularity.
Customers in the UAE will need a bank account to verify their identification before registering for TransferWise online. Transfers from UAE's dirhams to 50+ currencies are now available to users in the emirates with several different transfer routes.
TransferWise's co-founder Käärmann highlighted the various features that will soon come to the UAE as well. These include TransferWise for Business, borderless accounts, and debit cards. The former works like an international business account that will save enterprises loads of money if employees are dispersed. The business account allows employers to send, spend, and receive multiple currencies with the real exchange rate.
The way TransferWise puts it is as follows:
"Do business without borders."
Another interesting feature is the company's "debit card". TransferWise offers a multi-currency account for travelers, expats, and freelancers alike. With it, a user can hold more than 50 currencies at once, and convert between them in seconds, its website reads.
Such companies are changing the game of money transfers and money handling 180 degrees. We'll see what Arab country TransferWise will be entering next.