Michael Kent is a serial entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Azimo, one of Europe’s most successful fintechs of recent years. He is also co-founder and a non-executive director of Tandem, a new digital-only bank in the UK.
Previously, Michael co-founded Small World Financial Services, a money transmission provider, which he grew to $4.5bn in annual transaction volumes. He is also a startup investor and adviser, working with companies including Curve, a smarter credit card, and ComplyAdvantage, a digital KYC and compliance solution.
“It became very apparent to me that consumer interaction with technology, and the way people were handling their technology, was changing,” says Kent. “But the way they were handling their money hadn’t really kept up. So when we first started Small World, we had people who would walk into a corner shop, hand over a bunch of cash and then pay a pound or two pounds to use a telephone in the corner to phone up their beneficiary and tell them the money was on the way. By 2010, that was completely changed – people were communicating on Skype or Hangouts or chat or SMS, and it was quite clear the oldest fashioned and most backward part of that process was the handing over of cash and the filling out of a piece of paper in a store. And it was that part that made it expensive and liable to a few problems, which ranged from the money going missing, the ability to track the transaction on a paper-based system, and the ability to tell the person on the far end was much more difficult.
“Put it into a digital environment and it’s faster, more transparent, there’s less people in the value chain so it’s cheaper, and it just kind of makes sense. The big reason people haven’t done that previously was because the kind of customers that we have a tendency to get, which are the economic migrants, aren’t doing jobs in front of a PC (some of them are, but not all of them). These guys all have mobile phones now, so they can all use a digital service, and that was the reason behind Azimo. We saw there had to be a better way.”
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