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ComplyLaunch Customer Spotlight: pawaBank


Reducing costs and scaling up UK-to-Africa remittance corridors has been a focus for many in the FinTech community for several years. With high dependencies on workarounds damaging trust in existing solutions, new systems are required if diasporic communities are to experience an increase in cross-border payment efficiency.

On a mission to do just this, pawaBank is a new solution for the Ghanaian diaspora that provides comprehensive management and oversight of all payments, savings, and investments for its users. As of February 2022 the company is in its pre-launch phase, so we caught up with pawaBank Compliance Officer, Ama Otoo, to learn more.

Introducing pawaBank

“PawaBank is an African facing FinTech startup with a primary focus on Ghana,” says Otoo. “And our mission is to put an end to the workarounds, family favors, and hacks that the African community have to partake in whenever they try to send money back home, or invest, or do whatever they need to do when it comes to sending cross-border payments.”

Founded in 2021 by Kresten Buch and Oluwatosin Ajibade, aka Mr Eazi, pawaBank was built on the conviction that something needed to be done for the “ people who want to send, spend, or invest their own hard-earned money” in an environment often viewed by compliance teams as high risk. 

“Because diaspora communities are not properly understood or looked into enough” continues Otoo, “their transactions are always highly scrutinized […] resulting in high volumes of payments getting declined or blocked. […] At pawaBank, we’re on a mission to guide the diaspora and create a smoother financial journey for them.”

Breaking the cycle

As more payments get declined or blocked, a cycle begins where “law abiding citizens have to use a workaround that, by proxy, gets them into trouble and makes it even more likely for their payments to get declined or blocked next time around.”

By mitigating the need for workarounds, pawaBank hopes to remove friction from the transaction process. But, in order to break this cycle, trust and understanding around specific cultural practices need to be introduced into the system.

“Strong compliance and better insight on our customers and their extended networks will enable us to do this,” says Otoo. “This way, we’ll have a well rounded view of who these people are and why they transact the way they do, which will ultimately allow them to have an easier, more efficient financial journey when transferring funds.”

Understanding cultural differences 

“Since the banking system is formulated around the spending patterns of Europeans, compliance teams have a good understanding of what’s considered ‘normal’, but when it comes to the African diaspora, they have no clue. They know we send money back home, but that’s not all we do.

“A prime example of this came up in my own personal life recently, where a friend of mine was having her wedding in Ghana but had her account frozen because of the large sum of money she was trying to send back home to cover the weddings costs. Weddings cost a huge amount of money but my friend was made to feel like a criminal under the intense scrutiny she received because she was sending money to Africa.

“This is what pawaBank wants to change and we want the diaspora to understand that we understand you, we hear you, we see you, we know you. And we’re going to help you make things more compliant.”

Serving an interesting niche.

“The reason I love pawaBank is because of what it wants to do and the problem it wants to solve,” says Otoo. “Due to COVID and a rise in remote working, there has been a large influx of diasporans working back home over the last couple of years. During this time we have seen a lot of these payment issues come further into the light because the diaspora don’t have proper visibility of their UK account when they are away, making some transactions very difficult and very expensive. 

“Again, this leads to workarounds where diasporans need to send their money to someone for them to withdraw and hand back to them, which of course is very high risk and requires a lot of trust. 

“Having control over your finances is something we are very passionate about. Diasporan communities should be able to move freely and spend, send, and invest wherever they go whilst also being compliant as the law-abiding citizens that they are.

“That’s why I love pawaBank, because we are serving a unique group of people.” 

What’s next for pawaBank? 

PawaBank is currently in its beta testing mode for the next year or two. “We’re currently trying to involve as many beta testers as possible and listen to their feedback so that we can make something that they can get really excited about!”

“When you get used to hustles, you can sometimes forget that it’s a hustle in the first place. So, we’re really excited to be making something that will benefit and change the lives of so many people and improve cross-border relations.”

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Follow pawaBank:

Connect with Ama Otoo
Connect with Kresten Buch 

Originally published April 12, 2022, updated August 2, 2022

Disclaimer: This is for general information only. The information presented does not constitute legal advice. ComplyAdvantage accepts no responsibility for any information contained herein and disclaims and excludes any liability in respect of the contents or for action taken based on this information.

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