The money transfer business is personal for Ismail Ahmed. It was cash wired by his family that allowed him to make the final leg of his journey from escaping fighting in his native Somaliland to London in 1988 to take up a university scholarship. Today, Ahmed leads WorldRemit, one of a handful of fintech firms that is upending the remittances business that has long been dominated by three US firms — Western Union, MoneyGram and Ria — as well as banks. Piggybacking on the development of mobile money systems in Africa and other developing countries, these fintech firms offer migrant labourers a more convenient way to send money home at a lower cost. The market for personal transfers is sizeable, with the World Bank putting it at $689 billion in 2018. Some $529 billion of that was sent to people in developing nations, an increase of 9.6 percent from the previous year. And personal transfers are important, not just for the recipient families. “Remittances are on track to become the largest source of external financing in developing countries,” economist Dilip Ratha said this year when presenting the World Bank’s latest report on remittances. One of the report’s main conclusions was that the high cost of transfers reduce the benefits of migration. It found that the global average cost of sending $200 remained high, at around seven percent in the first quarter of 2019, with costs for African and Pacific island nations above 10 percent.