LONDON — Azimo, a London-based startup that lets people send money internationally on their phones, is planning to open an office in Dublin to cope with the fall-out from Brexit.
Azimo’s cofounder and general manager Marta Krupinska told Business Insider: “We were looking at a few options — Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Malta, and Dublin. It seems like it’s going to be Dublin.”
Krupinska says the startup, which was founded in 2012 and has over 1 million customers worldwide, will begin setting up the new office soon.
She said: “We would like to start the process of starting a subsidiary and getting a licence immediately. We want to be ahead of the queue. The thing about being 5 years old and having over 1 million customers, a year from now I can’t say ‘hey guys, Brexit happened, sorry, no more transactions to mainland Europe.’ We need to make sure we do that and do it quickly, just for peace of mind.”
Azimo is an app that allows people to send money internationally through their smartphones. It is aimed at the remittance market — overseas workers who want to send money back to family in other countries.
Krupinska says setting up the Dublin office is necessary to avoid Azimo falling out of Europe if trade terms with the EU are not agreed during Brexit talks. Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 last month, beginning the two-year process of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Britain is expected to lose passporting rights, which allow companies to sell goods and services across the EU using a local UK licence. However, the exact terms of Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU is unlikely to be clear for at least the next two years.
“The fact that we don’t know what is going to happen, it might be the fact that we don’t know that is even worse than knowing and being able to mitigate,” Krupinska said.
Azimo cofounder Michael Kent told Reuters last July, shortly after the Brexit vote, that the company was considering its options and looking at setting up an EU subsidiary. The company already has a Polish office where it employs 65 people.
Krupinska told BI this week that Azimo would keep its London office, which employs 35 people. She said: “Our most precious resource is our team. We feel strongly we’re part of the London ecosystem. We would like to keep the team here. What that means is we just have to set up a third office which we otherwise wouldn’t have to do.”
I just don’t know if they will be built out of London right now. From what I’m hearing, [fintech] might go to some other places in Europe, it might go to New York, obviously Asia is very interested
While London will not be losing Azimo over Brexit, the decision to open a Dublin office demonstrates how fintech and finance could suffer a slowdown in the wake of Brexit. Money that may otherwise be invested in the UK is instead being put towards contingency planning, often involving new branches in the EU.
Krupinska says: “I’m not sure [UK fintech] will shrink. I think it will not profit from the same growth it would have definitely enjoyed otherwise.
“We definitely see that consumers are interested and that means there’s lots of room for new companies to be built and I just don’t know if they will be built out of London right now. From what I’m hearing, it might go to some other places in Europe, it might go to New York, obviously Asia is very interested in getting some of that growth, be it Singapore or Hong Kong.”
Krupinska was talking Business Insider on the eve of Azimo launching a new feature that allows customers to send money internationally just using the phone number of the recipient.
Krupinska says the new feature is aimed at simplifying a process that can be complicated for migrants unfamiliar with local banking systems. Originally from Poland, Krupinska recalls being baffled by sort codes when originally coming to the UK and trying to pay her rent.
“Why should sending money to a person in Brussels or Warsaw or in New York or in Buenos Aires be any different than to a person sitting next to me?” she said. “By introducing phone numbers you can for the first time make this process equally simple.”
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