Exclusive: ‘Mo’ money in the hood’ – Jeremy Suarez, Muniy in “The Fintech Magazine”
Muniy, a new challenger with a hip hop vibe, is reaching out to the underbanked and SMEs to create value for everyone, as Co-founder Jeremy Suarez explains.
You’re out with a friend in search of some retail therapy and maybe a spot of lunch. As you walk along the high street, your pocket vibrates. It’s your banking app, letting you know that you can get two-for-one cappuccinos in a gorgeous little café around the corner. Perfect timing! As if by magic, you got a super-relevant, personalised offer that appeared exactly at the right moment. And nobody else has access to the delicious discount that you’ve been offered, which somehow makes it all the sweeter.
That helpful little app on your phone would be Muniy (pronounced money) – a soon-to-be-launched UK challenger bank that gives you tailored discounts across shops and services. Muniy has just closed a successful round of funding on Crowdcube, raising 103 per cent of its target, or just over £206,380. As well as funding its latest ambitions, the raise turned out to be a great publicity move for Muniy.
“Crowdcube has been really great for us because we’ve been in stealth mode for a while and this was kind of our coming-out party,” says co-founder Jeremy Suarez. “Now that we’re out there, other businesses are coming forward to say ‘hey, we really like what you’re doing – can we have a chat?’. So, the past three weeks have been very busy for us, just saying ‘hi’ and having ‘welcome to the family’-type conversations. At the same time, we’re seeing if there are any synergies that we can take advantage of going forward.”
By fintech standards, £200,000 is modest; Muniy’s plans are anything but. The team intends to use the capital to build out business, merchant and retail banking facilities, including API (application programming interface)-driven access to loans, pensions, foreign exchange, and trading across the platform. But at its heart is the concept of a marketplace that mutually benefits its client merchants and shoppers, creating what Suarez calls a ‘chain reaction’.
“We want to try to work with partners and merchants to give value back to users and let the merchants take advantage of that at the same time,” explains Suarez. “We’re working with people who are interested in bridging those gaps.”
High street banks have been offering cashback deals and rewards with selected partners for some time – five per cent back on your Waitrose shop with Lloyds and two per cent cashback at Waterstones with Barclays are among the current offers. It’s nice, but it doesn’t exactly give you a retail adrenaline rush. With Muniy, the discounts are open to all merchants, great and small. Think of the dad who finally quit his soul destroying job to set up the world’s tiniest Polish bakery. Or the pumped-up business grad who’s unlocking the door to her new sustainable gift shop for the first time, even though nobody thought she could do it. Muniy’s looking to support those guys, too.
“There are people behind those businesses, in modern mom and pop shops and restaurants,” says Suarez. “It’s their dream… and they have small margins to keep their businesses going.”
Muniy offers a bunch of tools to help these smaller merchants drive sales and, in many cases, pay less in fees to card processors. Its payments are based on a Muniy-generated QR code for which it charges 1.2 per cent and 10p per transaction with no set-up fee or going monthly costs.
According to Merchant Machine, for micro vendors bringing in around £1,000 a month, £50 or so of that goes towards card processing payments. If you think of our Polish-bakery, that’s a lot of bagels.
But Muniy’s fee structure is just part of it. It’s the additional consumer data that Muniy gives smaller merchants access to that is the real appeal, helping to give them a competitive edge against bigger rivals and offering better sales incentives – and all through the merchant’s business banking platform. “Anybody who has a Muniy account as a merchant has access to that information,” explains Suarez. “We’re trying to make sure that the person behind the business can benefit at the same time as the person using Muniy. There’s a bit of a handshake there.”
The impact of coronavirus has been devastating for Britain’s small businesses and extra support can’t come soon enough. Research from business banking app Amaiz found that a staggering 10 per cent of the UK’s small enterprises lost all their business as a direct result of the coronavirus lockdown. Not most of their business, ALL of it. For those that are still clinging on, tough times are expected ahead.
Muniy’s QR code payment facilities, which mean merchants and shoppers can avoid touchpoints altogether, should help to give still-nervous shoppers the confidence to return in numbers. And Muniy would like to think that by helping businesses get back on their feet, it’s supporting the whole economy. But it’s not just struggling small businesses that it’s looking out for. A major part of its financial mission is concerned with improving access to affordable banking for the underserved.
“We’re really looking out for the unbanked,” explains Suarez, “and there’s a huge number of those people.”
With Revolut-style instant foreign exchange and multiple-currency wallets, whether its travellers, immigrants who need a new account in the UK or small business owners, everyone is welcome.
“Offering loans is something we’re looking at doing really soon”, says Suarez, “And we’re also launching a way for small businesses and freelancers to apply for pensions. We’re doing a lot of interesting stuff with crossborder payments and we have some really nice relationships with foreign exchange companies. We might be offering stock options, too, so you can buy and sell stocks through the platform.”
And because all those services require the same know your customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering due diligence, Muniy is keen to explore ways to make the onboarding process smoother.
“That information is done over and over; if you get a mortgage, if you get a loan, if you open a bank account. With all us fintech companies doing the same thing, can we not streamline things a bit?” says Suarez. “We’re not even just doing the same thing; we’re using the same companies, the same APIs, the same user flows, and we keep building them, over and over again.”
There is a lot going on under the hood at Muniy, with a phased rollout planned for paid-for premium services, layered on top of free basic accounts. But it’s spent time working on its image, too.
A memorable brand is strategically important for neobanks. As more and more float into the marketplace, it can be tricky to stay centre-stage and become profitable. So Muniy put a lot of thought into its edgy design. Fusing pink and orange, this neo has a feel-good vibe, the kind that makes you nostalgic for beach parties and schnapps, and brightens the dullest of wallets.
“If you go to our website, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of reference to hip hop. ‘Mo’ Muniy, less problems’ and stuff like that,” says Suarez (that’s a riff on rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems 1997 hit). “My co-founder, Edwin Chong, and I are from the golden era of hip hop and so we love that space. In our video, we use the song C.R.E.A.M., from Wu-Tang Clan, which means Cash Rules Everything Around Me. They’re a group out of the 90s, a collective of 10 who all have their own special skills.
“I think that kind of plays into what we do. We’re not just there for the user on a personal level, we’re there for the merchants, too. Keeping it equal for everyone but, at the same time, giving the benefits to everyone.”