How Atlanta-Based Brightwell Navigated Pandemic Travel Uncertainties

A fleet of cruise ships docked at a harbor. Brightwell's Navigator is a global payroll solution that has served the maritime industry for over a decade, helping migrant workers receive funds and gain control of their personal finances.A person holding a tablet with icons on it.

Travel-focused startups across the world had to navigate uncertain waters over the course of the pandemic. As international borders slowly re-open, we caught up with one Atlanta-based FinTech team dedicated to streamlining payments for cruise ship workers.

Despite pandemic-related slowdowns, Brightwell just announced a new partnership with Viking Maritime Group to help improve on-ship payroll. Ernie Moran, senior vice president of Sales at Brightwell, answered our questions about new growth opportunities, the changing travel landscape, and what it has meant for Brightwell. His Q&A session is here:

Question: Since Hypepotamus last spoke to Brightwell in 2018, the cruise industry has drastically changed. Tell us a little bit about the pandemic realities and how it changed business for you?

Cruising was very publicly impacted at the onset of the pandemic, and the ripple effect is still being felt today. Even at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, cruise ships required a minimum manning of 100-200 crew to maintain the ship, even though they’re not sailing with passengers. Also, crew at home during COVID still needed our help accessing their money. Brightwell stayed afloat during the last 16 months by buckling down, tightening the ropes, and focusing on our top core value – users first. As the COVID wave settled, we refocused our energy on building new security features for our product including a new fraud monitoring tool that detects card attacks so effectively that we have spun it off as a completely separate product!


Question: Why is it important for employees to have plug-and-play paycards and remittance programs?

As globalization grows within the payments industry, cross-border remittances are growing. There are numerous regulatory requirements around payroll and remittances, and offering those services on their own becomes a non-starter for most companies. Brightwell’s expertise in this area allows our clients to focus on other key aspects of their business and provides their employees with choices – they can spend, send, or save their hard-earned money anywhere in the world from the palm of their hand.

Question: know recently you added FaceCheck to your platform. Why was this an important new feature?

Like the rest of the companies in the FinTech landscape, Brightwell is in a constant battle with cybercriminals. As we explored options for two factor authentication (2FA), we quickly realized that our audience, crew members on ships, face unique challenges. For instance, when you are out at sea with limited Wi-Fi and no cell service, it is not easy to receive a text message or email to confirm their identity. That is where FaceCheck fits in. In place of a password, our user takes a two-second video selfie that creates a unique facemap, which is encrypted and stored on a secure server. Every time they log in, their  2-second video selfie is authenticated against the encrypted facemap – eliminating the need for verification codes via texts, calls, or emails. Additionally, FaceCheck works on any device with a camera.  

Question: What’s next for Brightwell?

Right now, we are focused on helping our clients and crew return to service. We are also prepping for the Q4 launch of the world-class fraud monitoring tool that we built over the past 16 months. There is nothing like it on the market, and we are so excited to help other FinTech companies better secure their users’ funds as we were able to do for our users.

Question: Do you see your platform being used in any other industry vertical down the road?

Yes! The tools and infrastructure we have built are scalable and can be applied to many industries. We believe in educating and empowering global workers, and that is core to everything we do.

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