WorldRemit CEO to Move to Chairman Role as Fintech Eyes IPO

(Bloomberg) -- Ismail Ahmed, the founder of WorldRemit Ltd., plans to step down as chief executive officer and take a new role as executive chairman, according to people familiar with the move.

London-based WorldRemit, which was valued at $670 million in December and specializes in digitally transferring money to the developing world, has hired an executive search firm to find a replacement for Ahmed, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel matters. The company’s five-member board of directors is already interviewing candidates, they said.

The shift comes as WorldRemit considers an eventual initial public offering, the people said. One of the company’s backers said Ahmed, 58, agreed to step aside months ago and the hiring process is taking far longer than expected. Ahmed, through a spokesman, declined to comment for this article.

As executive chairman, Ahmed would focus on overseeing regulatory matters and dealmaking with banks, telecommunications firms, and other partners in the developing world, said the people.

Cashing Out

Investors are increasingly looking to cash out of the maturing fintech sector. In May, PayPal Holdings Inc. bought Swedish payments firm iZettle for $2.2 billion, and the next month Dutch payment processor Adyen NV debuted on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, posting triple-digit returns since. British online lender Funding Circle Ltd. is scheduled to go public in London in a few weeks at a valuation that may reach 1.8 billion pounds ($2.4 billion), lower than initially hoped.

Eight-year-old WorldRemit also wants to go public sometime in the next couple of years. It has grown rapidly since Ahmed, a onetime refugee from war-torn Somalia, developed a service to send money electronically from U.K. residents to recipients in Africa. The $600 billion global remittance market, long a paper-driven process that saddled low-income users with steep fees, was ripe for digital disruption.

After starting with just $200,000 of his own money, Ahmed built WorldRemit into a trailblazer that attracted venture capitalists such as Accel Partners, the Silicon Valley firm that backed Facebook Inc. WorldRemit, which sends money to 145 countries, has raised $220 million in funding. In 2017, it recorded an operating loss of 16.2 million pounds on 60.5 million pounds in sales. The company forecasts a 58 percent surge in revenue this year.

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