Salary Hero aims to offer more financial flexibility to lower-income Thai workers. The startup, which focuses on access to earned wages and financial education and plans to add neo-banking products as well, announced today that it has raised $2.8 million. The funding included participation from Global Founders Capital, M Venture Partners, 500 Global, 1982 Ventures, Titan Capital and Thai corporate and angel investors.

Salary Hero was founded in late 2021 by former Bain & Co. Bangkok executives Jonathan Nohr and Prabhav Rakhra. Both were also former bankers at Credit Suisse and Barclays. Other founding team members include Tep Neeranatpuree, former Head of Corporate Sales at Lalamove, and Thanakij Pechprasarn, former CTO at edtech startup Gantik.

Rakhra said that during his tenure at Bain, he and Nohr focused on financial services engagements. “With our combined backgrounds in both investment banking and working on strategy cases for various banks in Southeast Asia, we have seen banks continually de-prioritize lower-income customer segments,” he told TechCrunch. That’s because they’re not as profitable as affluent demographics. As a result, Rakhra added, lower-income customers end up paying more than wealthier individuals for the same basic financial services.

“It seems fundamentally wrong that people with fewer means should pay more for financial services if they can access them at all,” he said. “We saw an opportunity to use technology to level the playing field in Thailand and Southeast Asia.”

By having access to their earned wages when they need them, workers can better deal with emergencies and unforeseen expenses instead of being forced to borrow from lenders that charge 10% to 30% interest per month, Rahkra said. “This compound interest creates debt cycles that are difficult to break out of,” he said. “Furthermore, financial insecurity and the lack of a financial safety net creates a persistent sense of insecurity and is the leading cause of mental stress among workers.” He added that 80% of Thai workers earning less than $1,000 a month become loan sharks at some point have used.

The company says it has seen double-digit week-on-week user growth in 2022 among its manufacturing, logistics, hospitality and retail customers. Salary Hero works with companies with fewer than 100 employees on the payroll, but initially focuses on companies with between 500 and 50,000 full-time employees. Rakhra said that by being responsive to the financial needs of their employees, companies can improve employee satisfaction and reduce turnover in a competitive job market. The company monetizes by charging a low entry fee on its earned wage entry, but does not charge interest or other hidden fees, Rakhra said.

In the future, Salary Hero plans to add neo-banking products, including savings accounts at source, insurance products, remittances, and other financial services like micro-investments and debt restructuring advice. These other products will go live in 2023, while Salary Hero’s Earned Wages Access and Financial Education features are already live.

In a prepared statement, Mayank Parekh, CEO of M Ventures Partners said: “We are proud to support Salary Hero and support their innovative solution for employers to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive job market. The future of payroll is one where we say goodbye to traditional pay cycles. Salary Hero empowers workers while solving the immediate challenges for employers by driving employee retention, recruitment and productivity.”