Newly formed Neofin Ventures – founded by fintech experts Matt Oldham, Tony Shawcross and Chris Donnachie – has secured a total of £300,000 in funding via Worth Capital’s The Start-Up Series and angel investors, allowing Neofin Ventures to relaunch Unizest, a provider of e-accounts for new residents to the UK. The renewed Unizest brand will enter the market with support from established industry leaders Mastercard and Railsbank.
Recognising the challenges non-UK workers and students face when opening a bank account in the UK, which can be a difficult to navigate and time-consuming process, the founder trio formed Neofin Ventures to offer a simple tech-based solution to this age-old problem building on Unizest’s technology.
Originally set up for international students, Unizest’s e-account solution will now be broadened to include new workers to the UK who can apply and set up their e-account before they leave their home country. Upon arrival to the UK, customers will then receive their Debit Mastercard.
“We aim to create the best start for people arriving in the UK for work or study. Healthcare, construction, and agricultural workers coming from overseas fill a crucial gap in the UK’s economy and industry recovery, however, they face numerous challenges when trying to do something as simple as opening a bank account.
“The issue creates friction and a gap between being able to work and being able to start. This can cause frustration for employers and stress for workers. At worst, it can lead to vulnerability as overseas workers are the most at risk of exploitation at work,” says Matt Oldham, co-founder at Neofin Ventures and mentor at Barclays Fintech Accelerator Techstars.
Unizest will partner with those involved in bringing people to the UK, such as recruiters and other agencies, to make the process as simple as possible and remove one of the barriers to making the first step into a new life in the UK.
Neofin Ventures co-founders Matt, Tony and Chris each have a minimum of 25 years experience in the financial services, business and banking technology sectors, including flagship names such as Visa, Mastercard and Amex. Their collective expertise and industry relationships have yielded interest and support from leaders in the world of finance.
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Support from industry leaders
The funding round was led by Worth Capital as part of its The Start-Up Series competition. Neofin Ventures won the competition and went on to secure £200,000 from the Start-Up Series Fund.
Matthew Cushen, founding partner of Worth Capital, says: “Fintech is a popular sector for seed investment, but we have always been wary of investing in this frenzied space. Too often we see great tech solutions desperately searching for a problem to solve, or products and services in highly competitive spaces where the cost of acquisition is high but revenue generation is challenged – you can see this with many of the so called challenger banks.
Unizest has a clear target audience, both the workers and students planning to come to the UK and the recruitment agencies and others that help them to get here. Then the difficulty of setting up accounts prior to being in the UK is a knotty problem for them all. The team has a route to that target audience that should end up with a very low cost of acquisition. And they have a product and brand proposition forensically tailored to their type of user, along with a team that has delivered in the past.”
The investment was further supported by a number of angel investors. Sharing the same value of ‘creating the best start for people’, Mastercard and Railsbank are supporting Unizest’s re-entrance to the market.
Edoardo Volta, Head of Fintech at Mastercard UK & Ireland, says: “We believe in giving everyone, everywhere access to the digital economy with the means to pay, and be paid. It is great to be working with Unizest as they offer this innovative solution for underserved new to the UK workers.”
Louisa Murray, COO UK and Europe of Railsbank, the leading global Banking-as-a-Service platform, adds: “Advancing financial inclusivity was one of the main reasons why Railsbank was created, so it is good to be involved with Unizest, whose team has set out to provide e-accounts for new residents to the UK, helping their introduction to the country. We congratulate the team on the funding and the relaunch, and really look forward to working with them over the coming years.”
Under Neofin Ventures, Unizest is set to launch in June. Its services will be accessible through the website and as a downloadable app on iOS and Android.