Amongst the many disruptive fintech startups that have mounted a sustained attack on banks and money transfer operators’ share of the international money transfer market, TransferWise may be the best known, and certainly the noisiest, trumpeting their bank beating rates via PR campaigns and flash mobs, everywhere from the City of London, to the streets of Singapore and now, as far afield as Sydney.
Today the company announced another historic moment in their short history, recording their first ever annual pre-tax profit.
It may not be a figure that will overly frighten multinationals like Western Union, being just shy of £8m, but it comes with a promise from TransferWise co-founder Kristo Käärmann, that “we have so much volume in our platform that we have reduced our prices further in the past year.”
TransferWise claim that they are transferring more than $3bn overseas every month, which is 3 times more than at the same stage last year. Economies of scale dictate that such volumes will lead to further price cuts, and TransferWise owns some of the most scalable proprietary technology in the business.
Despite the news that they control just 0.5% of the global international money transfer market, TransferWise say that they now have more customers in the UK than either Barclays or HSBC, and they have even launched their own “borderless” bank accounts which have taken more than £2bn of customer deposits, the company revealed in its latest set of financial accounts.
Since TransferWise arrived on the scene, created by 2 Estonian founders frustrated at paying hefty bank fees to make transfers from London to Tallinn and the uncompetitive exchange rates offered, to those in the know, the international money transfer scene has changed beyond recognition, with no more queueing at high street MTOs or banks, mobile based payments, reduced fees, real-time, market rate exchange rates, and even blockchain based infrastructure that promises to make all money transfers free.
The World Bank says that the average costs of sending money overseas worldwide currently stand at around 7% of the transaction amount, down from 10% just a decade ago. TransferWise says they charge an average of just 1%. Enough to turn a healthy profit, it seems, whilst letting the everyday customer in on the deal.
The next step for TransferWise, and others, such as World Remit, Revolut, Azimo, Venmo, and Skrill in the US, is to gain the mass market appeal that will truly turn the tables on the banking incumbents.
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