Tag: blog

Working 7am-7pm, what a way to make a living

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In the second blog post of the Real Life Stories series, we hear Third’s story.

Why is he in Dubai? How does he spend a typical day? What does he do with his money?

Life isn’t always easy, but with an end goal to focus on, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Third’s story

Danilo III, or “Third” as he likes to be known, has lived in Dubai for four months, where he moved to from the Philippines. He works as a concierge for a building management company.

Just like most migrant workers in the UAE, Third works six days a week for 12 hours a day, 7am until 7pm. A typical day starts with an instant coffee before the bus ride into work. He lives in Al Quoz, and his accommodation is a long distance from the metro, so he has to share a bus with the colleagues he lives with (he shares a room with several other men). Work is 10km away so walking isn’t an option, especially in the summer when the temperature is known to reach 50 degrees Celsius.

After the bus journey, Third gets to work where he spends the day dealing with the visitors, tradesmen, and office workers in the building. He enjoys his job, there’s lots to do so he’s always busy and especially enjoys getting to know the residents of the building and hearing their stories every morning. He greets everyone with a warm smile, which is bound to brighten up even the dustiest of days!

In the evenings, Third generally does some grocery shopping or his laundry or other household tasks. When possible, he meets up with his wife, which is usually around three times a week. He met her in the Philippines, and they moved over to Dubai together, however they have to live in separate accommodation because they work for separate companies. She works and lives at the airport, which is 25km away from where Third lives in Al Quoz. As you can imagine, being newly weds and living such a distance away from each other with minimal public transport isn’t ideal. They both have the same day off each week, which they spend wandering around Deira City Centre Mall (but not buying anything…).

Third and his wife moved to Dubai to save money and make a better life for themselves, as well as to send money to their friends and family back home. Their first goal is to save enough for a proper Church wedding, as they only had a small affair at home. Then they would like to rent a flat together, so they can settle down and end the current separation. Third is also putting away a little bit of money each month for when they decide to have a baby.

Access to an online account means they could manage their finances and keep their money securely in an account (rather than in cash format stored in shared accommodation). The life Third and his wife wish for is within reach. The money to be made in Dubai is far more than they can earn back in the Philippines, which will in turn open up more opportunities for their future family. Giving Third and his wife access to banking and cheaper remittance could bring their dream wedding and life as a family one step closer.

What does it take to be Dubai’s most requested beautician?

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In this new “day in the life” series we have interviewed low-income migrant workers around Dubai to understand about their lifestyle, why they’re here and their prospects for the future. Today we speak to a beautician from India.

How did you hear about working in Dubai?

My sister and I both trained to be beauticians in India. My sister heard you could earn more doing the same things in Dubai, and her friend helped her to get a job working for one of the best salons here. A year later, I followed her to work for the same company.  Eight years later, my sister and I are still here.

What’s your schedule like each day?

I work 12 hours a day, usually 10am to 10pm. I’m the top requested person in the salon so I usually have a full day of appointments, mostly waxing. I can do all treatments but people say it’s not painful when I wax them, so that’s the top thing I get booked for! My clients are very loyal- I know them well and enjoy chatting to them, so the day passes quickly.

Do you get to see your sister much? How do you spend your time?

We share an apartment in Al Quoz provided by our company. We work in different salons but the company makes sure we get the same day off, and we travel to work on the same bus. We’re usually tired by our day off, so we’ll sleep in for a while! We try to go to church every other week, and we go to the mall, or the cinema.

What’s your company like to work for?

We work hard but we are loyal to the company because they are loyal to us. Like tomorrow we have a party, which is Great Gatsby theme. We’ve all got new shiny dresses. There will be around 500 people, which will be a lot of fun.

How often do you go back to India to see your family?

We get 30 days of leave each summer, sometimes more if you worked overtime in busy times like Eid, Christmas and New Year. Usually my sister and I go back to India, but this year, we brought our parents to see Dubai instead. It was hot but they loved it. We went to Dubai Parks, saw the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. They’ll come back.

Do you send money back to your family every month? Can you afford to save money for yourself as well?

Yes, we’re supporting our parents and younger brothers through university. One of our brothers might come to Dubai if he can get an IT job when he graduates. I don’t always save for long things like a house…. I have paid for myself to get other things I wanted though, like orthodontic braces! Haha.

Will you move back to India eventually and settle down?

When I first came to Dubai, I thought it would just be for two or three years, but now I’m not sure. It’s lovely to visit home, but the people there haven’t left or explored the world much. I think I’d get bored living at home now I’ve been independent in Dubai all this time; I’ve changed. My parents want me to choose the person I’ll marry and I don’t think the right guy is there at home for me. My sister met a guy in Dubai and I think they’ll get married and stay here. Maybe one day I will too!

4 reasons to meet us at RegTech MENA

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We have a confession: we love to scan.

Any kind of ID document; you have it, we want to scan it.

The NOW Money team have been geeking out over customer onboarding over the past few months, and the conversation in the office rarely steers from what’s come to be known as “scan chat”.

Ben Walton, NOW’s Technical lead, has been working tirelessly, testing different techniques to find the crème de la crème of compliance and biometric security. He’s scanned Co-founder, Ian Dillon’s passport so many times we think he’s now been put on a warning list. There’s been hours of fun testing comparisons such as a female’s ID photograph against a male selfie.

“Do I REALLY look 12% like a man?”

All in the name of onboarding security.

When we were invited to the RegTech conference in Bahrain on 22nd and 23rd November we jumped at the chance to get involved in the conversation in the region. Ben even moved his flights forward for Bahrain 70.3 triathlon, which he’s taking part in the following weekend. He’s that dedicated to RegTech.

If you’re going too, here’s 4 reason’s you should come and find us for some “scan chat”

  1. See a demo of the most advanced onboarding service in the Middle East

As one of the region’s first and most prominent FinTech companies, we’re ahead of the curve when it comes to digital onboarding. But you’ll have to see it to believe us – and we want to show you! Get in touch to arrange a meeting.

  1. Hear about cyber security from NOW Money’s Co-founder

Don’t miss Ian Dillon speaking on the subject “Cyber Security and Cyber Risk in the Age of RegTech” which is on Tuesday 21st November 21st at 11:35 AM. Put a reminder in your calendar and bring your best questions.

  1. Learn how to save time

With many companies in the region, onboarding and KYC processes can take days, weeks and even months. If any information is missing at sign-up, then the application is not progressed or refused. Our onboarding solution can verify documentation on the spot, using the latest scanning, biometric and KYC technology, saving you time making multiple trips to a branch.

  1. Discuss blockchain with people who know what blockchain is

So often you go to a conference where the speakers are throwing buzzwords around in an attempt to show they’re keeping up-to-date with industry trends. But we really do know our stuff. We are using blockchain in our onboarding solution to solve real life problems in the Middle East. We live and breathe FinTech and RegTech, so if you want to have a proper chat about the latest fashionable buzzwords, we’re your guys.

Have we convinced you? Get in touch now to arrange a meeting.

8 misconceptions about the UAE and its residents

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I often get asked about my thoughts about the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Before I moved here, I probably would have described a land of sand, oil, mosques, wealth, and magic carpets amongst other things.

In all honesty, looking back, that wouldn’t have been a terrible guess, but now that I’ve lived here for a while, I think maybe it was a bit one dimensional!

One can’t be blamed for basing assumptions on what most people would consider to be the native Arabic speaking Emiratis; how they live and what jobs they do. But the Emiratis only make up 13 per cent of the population. The rest? 17 per cent Western expats and 70 per cent low-income migrant workers from countries such as Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Are you shocked that not everyone drives a sports car? Well, it’s true. And there are a few common misconceptions about the UAE and the underprivileged 70 per cent of its population that I can help clear up for you.

  1. The streets are paved with gold
    More golden sand, than actual gold. The UAE is celebrating its 46th National Day in December 2017, so understandably, it’s very much still under construction. Yes, there is a lot of wealth, and the Burj Al Arab is partially plated with gold leaf, but there’s also 70 per cent of the population who earn under AED 5,000 a month (around $1,360) and cannot afford luxuries.

 

  1. You can live here comfortably on $1,360 a month
    Most of the low-income migrant workers in the UAE are here to send money back to their families, because they can earn more here than in their home countries. Typically, they send around 60-70 per cent of their wages home, meaning that they will only get a remaining 20-30 per cent to live on. So, monthly income suddenly drops from $1,360 to about $400. And given that Dubai is one of the most expensive cities in the world, this isn’t much to survive on, let alone afford a comfortable lifestyle.

 

  1. Most people in the UAE have a bank account
    This is a common misconception and far from the truth. Most banks in the UAE have a minimum salary requirement of AED 5,000, meaning that the low-income migrant workers can’t have a bank account and get paid via a prepaid card with limited functionality. They use this card to withdraw their salary in cash, excluding them from many in-store card purchases or online benefits such as cheap remittance options.

 

  1. It is more developed than emerging economies
    Considering that world’s tallest building and the only seven-star hotel in the world are in the UAE, you might expect the most high-tech payments systems too. Pakistan and India are leading the way here though, having launched instant mobile payments years ago. Easypaisa, a money transfer service accessed through a mobile phone, was launched in Pakistan in 2009 and PayTM is India’s version, which was launched in 2010 and has amassed over 230 million users. NOW Money is the first accounts and remittance service for low-income people in the UAE, but most of them have used similar services in their home countries.

 

  1. Migrant workers can’t afford smartphones
    The first question I get asked when speaking to people about NOW Money: “but can they afford smartphones?”Yes, 98 per cent of low-income migrant workers own a smartphone. It’s their only way of communicating with their families back home, and probably their most prized possession. A perfectly good smartphone is now available at Carrefour for AED 120.

 

  1. They can’t read English – can they even use a smartphone?
    The standard of literacy in emerging economies ranges between 50 and 60 per cent compared to 99 per cent in many Western countries (UNESCO 2015). Therefore, you could argue that migrant workers won’t be able to read their native language, let alone another one? Wrong! When carrying out market research at the end of 2016 I discovered the majority of users wanted the NOW Money app to be in English, as they’re using it every day.  As go-getters who have moved abroad, UAE migrants hold an education advantage on their relatives at home.

 

  1. Their families don’t have access to the internet
    Some won’t, some will. But, in reference to point four, mobile payments are sophisticated in some of the workers’ native countries, so the chances are beneficiaries will be able to receive money using a mobile device. NOW Money delivers remittance to mobile wallets, bank accounts and local pick-up, so there isn’t actually a need for their families to have access to the internet.

 

  1. It’s all about Dubai
    Dubai’s population only makes up 2.8 million of the 9.27 million people in the UAE. That means there’s still 6.48 million people living outside the metropolitan hub.  Although Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the best-known Emirate states, there’s actually five more: Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaima, and Umm Al Quwain, all of which have low-income migrants working in their hotels, shops, taxis, and building new structures.

 

So, as you can see, NOW Money’s target audience are vast in quantity and in need of safer, cheaper and more efficient access to payments and money transfer services. The emergence of FinTech and RegTech in recent years has opened up a gateway to enable cost-efficient solutions to be created for this population, who are currently excluded from the current financial system.

To find out more about how NOW Money can help your employees on less than AED 5,000 please get in touch at info@nowmoney.me or tweet us @NOWMoneyME

How I learned to embrace fear

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I believe that fear is not something we are born with, it’s a feeling that’s developed over time. It could be due to a bad experience or just a lack of self-confidence. But, at times we don’t recognise what we fear until we face it head on.

Of course, it’s hard to do things we’re afraid to, but it’s always worth a try. After all, there’s nothing to lose by trying, right?

From personal experience, overcoming some of my fears has brought me immense joy, and has given me the perspective to see things in a different way. I won’t lie, doing something new for the first time is hard, but I’m so glad I can say that I have put myself out there.

Here are some challenges I faced during the year I worked at NOW Money, and how some wonderful people around me made it easy to overcome them.

Blogging

I still remember the first time I was asked to write an article for the company blog, I was shivering! It’s something I’ve always thought I couldn’t do.  I resisted it for a long time, until I was told to just do it, so begrudgingly, I did. I will be honest, it was hard but wasn’t impossible. I learnt a lot about the art of creative writing including how to structure a blog, the importance of adding personal experience to your writing and how to make it engaging for the reader.

I still have a long way to go before I write what I think is a brilliant blog, but I’m so grateful to my colleagues who encouraged me to try blogging, and to the readers who have appreciated my work and have given me such positive feedback.

Multi-lingual presenting

In early 2017, I was given a task to train some users of the NOW Money app. They were mainly native Urdu and Hindi speakers, so I had to present in multiple languages. Although I was usually quite confident presenting to a large audience, this time I was nervous. It was important that the transition between languages was smooth so the training session would be understood by the audience. I had no option but to do it as I was the only Hindi speaker in the company!

I remember very clearly, just before I was about to start my presentation, my boss Katharine (Kat) said, ‘You can do it V!’. And that was all I needed to hear. The presentation went really well and became interactive, which was a sure sign that they were listening and were interested in what I had to say.

I was so lucky to have such an amazing mentor who pushed me beyond the limits I set for myself. Thanks Kat.

Presenting to the UAE government

As part of my role at NOW Money, I used to enter the company into start-up competitions. In one particular competition we reached the final, which involved presenting to senior managers in the UAE government.

Kat and Ian, NOW Money’s other co-founder, asked me to present the company as I had taken ownership of the project from the start. I was reluctant when asked, as it was quite frightening for me to present to such senior people.

Ian motivated me to seize the wonderful opportunity in front of me, and not to worry about anything else. The whole team helped me perfect my script, listened to me present couple of times and asked me potential questions from the judges. The learning experience was fantastic. On the day of the competition, when I was on stage, Kat was seated in the audience. After my presentation all she said was ‘I’m proud of you, V’.

Honestly, I’m so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful organisation where we encourage each other to grow each and every day. We meet very few people in our professional lives who want others to grow with them instead of leaving them behind in the ‘professional race to save their jobs’. It’s much more productive to create healthy competition rather than being too competitive, and by doing this we could make a massive change in our professional lives.

Let’s be open to growing individually and together!

5 things to know as a start-up newbie

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Being the youngest one in a start-up is not easy, and trying to keep pace with colleagues who are extremely experienced in their fields has been a challenge. I think I’m getting there, but it hasn’t been easy and it certainly didn’t happen overnight, as frustrating as that can be.

It’s been a steep learning curve for me from the very start and it continues to escalate. As I complete a year in NOW, I would like to share my personal tips for someone with little work experience who’s thinking of joining a start-up.

  1. Be prepared for everything

Working in a start-up is not a piece of cake and there is nowhere to hide. You are a core member of the team and every action of yours is reflected on the business. Be prepared to learn new, unexpected things, this is your opportunity to gain knowledge, so seize it – don’t shy away!

Tasks given to you might not be in your job description. But guess what, those are the tasks that will help develop your career in a more holistic way and bring out the best in you!

  1. Keep a learning log

During your average day at work, when you see or hear something that is new to you, note it down.

It will remind you of the things you’ve learnt that change you from a good employee to a great one. It’s especially important in a start-up when there is so much to learn, writing down those points allows you to reflect over how much you’ve learnt over a short space of time.

  1. Set Targets

Make a to-do list with strict deadlines. Be honest with yourself and organise your time well. Ticking each task off your list gives you a real sense of satisfaction and makes you feel motivated to accomplish more! It’s also a tangible way of showing yourself the value you bring into the business.

  1. Your best friend

Working for a start-up you’re going to be expected to get involved with many new things and, of course, you won’t know how to do it all. Remember Google is your best friend!

It answers your tiniest doubts and things you just don’t know at all. Over time you will learn how to get things done within your capabilities. Starting something new is never easy, so be patient and enjoy the learning process.

  1. Have fun as a team

Be open to conversations with your team members, it can be as simple as ‘good morning’ each day, or ‘how was your weekend?’ at the start of the week, or ‘let’s have lunch together?’. Having fun with your colleagues really helps the day go by in an enjoyable way.

Make an effort to organise a get-together when it’s your cultural festival, teach them about your culture and have a great time together. Be a team player, spread good vibes and it won’t even feel like work!

 

I like to think that working at NOW Money has made me a more rounded individual and broadened my professional skill set. I have been exposed to a two-way learning corridor about different cultures, beliefs, and traditions.

I didn’t realise working here was going to be so fulfilling, and I’d even go so far as to say the best time of my life. From having lunch together every day, to our never ending conversations, planning team activities, working together and winning awards for our achievements, this journey has been absolutely fantastic.

Here are few of my favourite snaps from the whole year:

Disrupt yourself or someone else will

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By Simona Stankovska, freelance journalist previously of the Financial Times

We know that change can be good for us, such as losing weight, getting a promotion at work, or finding our perfect relationship, however, we all still fear it. After all, as the saying goes, if it isn’t broken, then why fix it? But, if I told you that in 10 years’ time your life would be exactly the same, can you honestly say you’d be happy?

Now, transfer that thought to your bank. Most of us have been banking with the same bank for many years. No matter how many overdraft fees we pay, or the hours that we spend on the phone waiting to speak to a customer services representative, we remain loyal. But, was is it that’s keeping us so attached; could it be fear of change that’s stopping us from getting the service that we need, want and deserve?

But, as former President of the United State of America, Barrack Obama, put it nicely in his speech in Chicago in 2008: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.”

So, what are we waiting for?

It seems that the Financial Technology (Fintech) industry has listened. Technology, and thus banking is evolving. According to nordicstartupbits.com, in 2016 there were more than 1,362 Fintech companies in 54 countries around the world with the USA, India, UK & Ireland, Israel, and Germany having the most Fintech start-ups, with more than $25.8 billion invested in these “challengers”.

And, it looks like this phenomenal growth is sustainable. The Fintech industry is expected to grow exponentially in the next decade; changing the world of financial services entirely.

Experts have even gone as far to predict that Fintech will slowly edge out traditional financial institutions, such as banks and building societies, as a result of their wide range of attractive, easily accessible and revolutionary products. Fintech is also leading the way for financial inclusion, news that will be welcomed by the world’s large unbanked population, who do not, or cannot have access to a bank account.

According to a survey in 2016 from The British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and Ernst and Young, the use of bank branches fell by 6 per cent in 2015, as more customers turned to phone and internet banking services.

This is where, veteran banker, Chairman and CEO of Customers Bancorp and Customers Bank, Jay Sidhu says, banks need to disrupt themselves or someone else will. He adds: “Your biggest problem is your biggest solution.”

This points to a new wave of digital technology that traditional banks need to adopt in order to keep up. HSBC have recently introduced voice activated security, where your voice is your password when phoning through to speak to a customer services agent. Santander are looking to go one step further with the “voice banking”, where customers will be able to make payments and transfer money using their voice.

Mr Sidhu, who created mobile offering Bank Mobile – a US challenger bank, says that the days of 20 years of banking experience are gone, it’s now about the 20-somethings. He believes all companies need to listen to young entrepreneurs and adopt a mobile-first strategy, he told RFi Group’s Global Digital Banking Conference attendees.

Never-the-less, speakers at The Economist’s annual Finance Disrupted conference, in London, are still sceptical about this new trend, and believe that there is still a purpose for traditional banking.

Stephane Dubois, Founder and CEO, Xignite, said that if each of the large challenger banks in the UK were to meet their targets, they would be bigger than the three largest banks in the UK, which he just doesn’t think is going to happen. He said that no matter how much consumers moan about their bank, they are still unlikely to change banks. Plus, traditional banks, in spite of their problems, still embody safety and security.

Mr Dubois, and the rest of the panel, which was made up of Claire Calmejane, director of innovation at Lloyds Banking Group; Rich Wagner, CEO at Advanced Payment Solutions; and Mark Cliffe, chief economist at ING Group, agreed that there’s room for compromise, and that banks can learn from the challengers, and challengers can learn from the banks.

Ms Calmejane said that her team at Lloyds are looking at possible opportunities for collaboration.

Could this mean that we see the larger banks buying smaller, independent, digital-only banks in order to adopt their technology?

Who knows. It does seem, however, that millennials are opting for digital solutions. So, maybe change is good? Go on, give it a try; what’s the worst that can happen?

Am I just misunderstood?

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Having worked in marketing for six years, I feel like I’ve been to every conference, breakfast briefing and information session going, and the messages are always pretty similar:

  • Content is king (massive cringe)
  • Score your leads
  • Nurture your leads
  • Automate all processes (so your role becomes defunct)
  • Read and re-read your copy until there are definitely no errors. Then read it again at least 4 more times, just to make sure.
  • Know your audience

The most recent conferences have taught me that business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) are now being overtaken by something called human to human (H2H).

But, what if that human isn’t a sarcastic Brit like me?

Well, the challenge for me has been to work out my audience and find a way to connect to them on their level. After all, the majority of the population in the UAE are migrants, originating from a wide variety of countries, none of which I have been to.

At Christmas I took an Instagram photo of what I deemed to be an appallingly decorated tree and sarcastically posted it under the heading, “beautiful, just beautiful”. You can imagine my surprise when a Dubai local commented “it is beautiful, isn’t it?”, in complete seriousness. It showed me that what I deemed hilarious, witty commentary, others, who weren’t brought up in the same culture as me, took as face value.

This is when I realised that what to me is glaringly obvious, can be interpreted differently by others; after all, we’re all different. Of course, I was aware of this before, but when you go international, addressing your audience is a whole new ball game.

It has been incredibly important from me to take note from this, because at the end of last year, I took on the UI/UX development of the NOW Money app. I had to detach from what I thought we should do and listen to what our users wanted and needed; as they’re the ones who will be using the app, not us!  So, my job has been to understand how to address these people and ensure they understand the app and want to use it (completely essential to the success of the entire company. No pressure)!

So, I went out and spoke directly to them. After every round of changes with the designer, the team and I took print-outs of the interface to shop keepers, taxi drivers, and construction workers etc, and listened to their feedback.

I discovered that words that made the most sense to me, such as “recipient” (which fitted grammatically for when they pick who to send the money to), were not widely understood. Instead the users requested that we used “receiver”. This was an absolute OCD nightmare for my colleagues and I, but who are we to stand in the way of popular demand? In order to be successful as a company, these days, you have to listen to what your customers want.

It all makes sense now! I’ve noticed a lot of marketing material in Dubai which has made me laugh and would leave the grammar police with a nervous twitch. At first I was quick to judge and think their editor was having a laugh, but now I’m not so sure. It appears that when addressing this audience you just need to ensure the message is conveyed effectively, whichever way that may be.

If spite of this, here are some of my favourite grammatical nightmares; I wonder if you’ll laugh as much as I did? Or is it just me, after all?

Photo 31-01-2017, 15 57 51

That all encompassing plate…

Photo 31-01-2017, 15 58 03

Ok, Shakespeare

Photo 31-01-2017, 15 58 14

Twitch

Photo 01-02-2017, 20 19 34 (1)

Off or on?!

Photo 31-01-2017, 15 58 26

No, I still can’t get my head around this one.