Registering for a traditional UK bank account has met hurdles as families need proof of residence. While Ukrainian payment cards can be used abroad, withdrawal and payment limits have been imposed. The obstacles have caused a cash crisis leaving many relying on charitable handouts and shut out from receiving benefits such as universal credit or employment payments in future.
However once Ukrainians are in the UK and can show a UK Border Force stamp, Amaiz is operating fast track verification online via their current passport. Customers can use the address of a relative or sponsor and their UK phone number.
This opens the way for them to set up a current account with a prepaid Mastercard so they can control their money, including international payments, via the app on their phone.
The Financial Conduct Authority regulates Amaiz as an e-money institution subject to UK Electronic Money Regulations. This means there’s no deposit protection on funds, but they are ring fenced in a separate client account and can’t be lent out.
Account charges normally are from £6 a month, but the service will be free for Ukrainian refugees until the end of this year and includes a £15 welcome credit.
Ukrainian entrepreneur Sergey Dobrovolskii set up the London-based fintech five years ago.
He said: “Since the invasion I’ve been thinking about what action I can take to make life a bit easier for my fellow people coming to the UK.
“I’ve been told about the access struggles they are having. Amaiz is well placed to help as it’s agile enough to help quickly with the minimum of bureaucracy required. I hope it inspires others to take action.”
The payment card can be sent to an address the family chooses. After being available for just over a week, applications are coming through.
“We think this service has potential to help up to 15,000 families, both being able to receive benefits and a means as some look to secure work,” explains Amaiz’s UK chief executive Steve Taklalsingh.
The company, originally designed to provide digital financial services for small firms and sole traders, now has large international clients and employs 12 staff in London.
Dobrovolskii has also donated £840,000 to help his home country with food, housing and medical supplies through a fund, Peaceful Sky of Ukraine, that he has set up in Prague.
The country’s hryvnia currency is not convertible across most of Europe, posing more cash problems for refugees. The European Central Bank is looking into introducing a conversion facility.
“This would certainly help those prior to coming to the UK,” adds Taklalsingh. “Using Amaiz they could have a lot more in place and ready. But with all the agreement needed among countries, that’s going to take a while.”
Check it out at https://amaiz-ukraine-refugees.com