UniZest, pitched as a banking solution for international students to the UK, is one of only 10 startups chosen by Barclays bank to be part of its Techstars incubator.
With its Aspire bank card and account, UniZest hopes to combat the difficulties and complications of the world of modern banking, which many international students face when arriving in the UK.
“You don’t get any issues with additional costs, or some bank taking money out of what you pay”
Although it will be attached to a UK bank account, the Aspire account can be set up before a student leaves their home country and will allow parents access to certain pages of the students’ account. UniZest said the tool will improve wellbeing and create a support system for students who have historically faced problems with international transfers (for fee and accommodation payments) and setting up traditional UK bank accounts.
Through partnerships with Contis financial services, and the Global Currency Exchange Network, UniZest say its product will circumvent traditional problems.
Peter Miles, UniZest CEO, has a wealth of experience with startups, and has already had success in the UK domestic HE market with SubTV. He told The PIE News the key to this new product is its simplicity and ease of use.
“Imagine it,” he said, “the student is sat in Malaysia, with mum and dad, about to go thousands of miles away… [without] any other support systems already in place… but they can open a bank account”.
“Not only open,” Miles continued, “they can start using it! Through the foreign exchange they can turn ringgits into sterling [and] they can make payments while still at home. [They] could pay for their tuition pay, the accommodation fee and those payments are UK to UK local transfers.”
This final point is crucial, Miles pointed out.
“You don’t get any issues with additional costs, or you know, some intermediate bank taking money out of what you pay”.
Miles said he is hoping for 30 university partners within two years. So far, the firm only works in the UK, but UniZest also have plans for large scale expansion to Europe, North America, and Australia.
Although Miles and his UniZest partners hope to spread globally, for now the target student markets are more restrained, with China, India and Malaysia the student sending areas identified for growth.
Back in the UK, Miles is hopeful that UniZest’s inclusion in the Techstars incubator will accelerate growth by working with Barclays, one of the biggest retail banks in the UK.
“We’re very optimistic that this is going to be good for them and us. They must have a problem. We’ve got to be able to fix it. So that’s the way we look at it”.