(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
While the Finance Ministry and Bank of Israel battle over regulations to safely open up the banking and credit system, a slew of start-ups are tackling financial and payment problems in their own roundabout ways.
V-Check, for example, is a recent start-up that wants to replicate the check-writing process in an electronic application.
“The idea came to me because I saw how much businesses are struggling to collect their payments and how much they pay for commissions,” V-Check CEO and founder Kobi Ram said on Tuesday.
The app connects to users’ accounts and lets them write checks, such as regular payments to landlords or vendors.
It also has a “second signature” feature that requires two people to sign off on payments.
The company is offering very low prices in order to compete with the likes of PayPal, Venmo, and even Facebook, which has integrated payments options into its Messenger app.
Another Israeli competitor, Getgems, has developed a means of allowing users to send money through existing chat apps.
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A refreshingly innovative company called EZSave is taking a different tack, promising to help consumers negotiate better plans with service providers such as cellular companies, TV providers, utilities, and Internet providers.
The app lets users submit photos of their bills and determines if they are on the best plan by analyzing their usage patterns.
It constantly searches for better deals and even negotiates new ones on behalf of the consumers.
“We really give a turnkey solution to customers,” said EZSave CEO Ephraim Zuriel. Although the company said it saves users an average of NIS 1,000 a year, and sometimes as much as NIS 2,500 (from which it takes a cut in the first year), the biggest perk may be in freeing consumers from the frustration of dealing with lengthy customer service phone calls.
Other than saving money, EZSave’s big added value to “customers is dealing with the providers, which people hate to do,” he added.
The product may also be good for businesses, he added, by providing clues on when customers appear ready to leave, allowing an opportunity to retain that customer by offering deals.
The company, which is working to expand to the US and UK, said it will likely broaden into new fields as well, such as insurance as, Zuriel said.
A related company, BillGuard, which seeks out “gray charges” from consumer bills (those extra fees and costs that companies sometimes throw in) was acquired for $30 million in 2015 by Prosper Marketplace.
Two other payments company, Rewire and Neema, have focused on ways for people to send remittances more cheaply.
This is boon to Israel’s foreign workers who often pay high rates to send payments back to their families.
As Israeli payment and financial technology apps have proliferated, so too have structures to help them develop.
Hubs such as The Floor, housed at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, are actively engaged with the new start-ups, as are banks such as Citi and Bank Hapoalim, by supporting fintech accelerator programs and industry-related competitions.
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