Moni gives “financial inclusion & dignity” to European migrants

By Oliver Smith 3 October 2016

For the 2m refugees arriving in Europe, opening a bank account is one of the greatest challenges to starting a new life.

Europe is in the midst of a migration crisis, one that will be drawn out over months and years as tens of thousands of asylum seekers struggle to start new lives in the countries they now live in.

One of the biggest challenges facing these nearly 2m migrants who have arrived in Europe over the last year is an inability to open a bank account – the most basic of services without which they will struggle to start a life.

At first glance Moni is no different from digital challenger banks you’re probably already familiar with, Monzo, Tandem and the like.

The big difference is that Moni is focused on helping the unbanked, those who don’t have access or the ability to open traditional bank accounts.

And so far they’ve done just that for over 6,000 refugees in Finland.

For those living in European migrant camps, opening a bank account is the first step towards social inclusion.

The problem with migrant accounts

There are two problems for migrants wanting to start a new life in Europe, the first problem is that they often lack permanent addresses and the kinds of official documents needed to open a bank account.

Secondly, they often need to remain anonymous as to avoid repercussions from the countries they have fled from, so opening an account in their name brings its own risks.

Many European refugees are fleeing from Eritrea in Africa where “unregistered” religions are banned and human rights are regularly violated, or Sudan where stoning to death and flogging remain legal punishments.

“They or their families could be at real risk if the government or country they fled finds out who or where they are,” Bernino Lind, an advisory board member to Moni who is currently leading the company’s European expansion, told The Memo.

But without a bank account migrants, even those recently granted asylum, cannot get proper jobs or receive many state benefits, many are given pre-paid gift cards in lieu of a proper bank account.

“Do they want to work for money? Yes, of course. Do they want to buy nice things for their children? Of course. They want peace and prosperity just like everyone else,” says Lind.

Bernino Lind, an advisory board member to Moni, is currently travelling across Europe working out how to help more migrants join the banking system.

Joining the dots

By working with the Finnish immigration authorities, police, government and central bank of Finland, Moni was able to figure out how to use a migrant’s asylum seeker ID, which is linked to a biometric police record, to guarantee their identity and let them open an account for the first time.

“It’s financial inclusion, it’s dignity, it’s all the things we want to see in the world.”

Moni ran a hugely successful trial with the Finnish immigration service and is now being rolled out to hundreds of refugees arriving in the country every month.

And Finland is just the start.

Because of Europe’s cross-border E-Money Directive, Moni’s asylum identity solution can be used across the continent to help migrants open accounts.

Lind is already in talks with Greece, the UK and the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees to start more pilots in those countries dealing with large numbers of migrants.

For migrants escaping persecution, opening a bank account shouldn’t be the biggest challenge they face.