This week’s guest on the podcast is Mike Ward, the chief revenue officer of WorldFirst, which is a strong competitor in the international payment and money transfer industry. We discuss why historically it’s been so hard, expensive, and frustrating to move money around the world and how new financial technology firms like WorldFirst have improved the experience.
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Below are highlights, edited for clarity, from the episode.
Why people feel it’s so hard move money internationally
“There are two reasons why people still feel like it’s hard to move money around. The first is that they’re probably still using their banks. We believe, in most markets around the world, banks own 85 to 95 percent of the market share in money transfer. The banks have been trying to incorporate technology and make transactions easier. But with an incumbent, you still have to go into the branch and talk to a teller. The teller is a generalist and not an FX expert. You have to fill out a large form and pay high fees.
The second reason is that most people and businesses don’t realize there are alternatives. Financial technology companies have disrupted and changed the transaction in terms of speed, price, and complexity.”
Financial technology begins to disrupt banking money transfers
“The original approach to competing with banks in money transfer probably began 25 to 30 years ago. We’re going to compete against the banks with pricing and service. Travelex would be a good example. To them, service was picking up a phone. Have a matter expert, not a generalist, behind the counter. They’d have better pricing because Travelex would go out and make a market and trade with the big banks. Higher volumes resulted in better pricing Travelex could pass on to their customers.
Then technology came and said let’s make technology core. Let’s not have feet-to-the-street sales people running around to land one customer at a time. Let’s not have it phone-based. We want our technology to solve the issues, answer questions, and conduct the transaction. That’s really what customers want. They don’t want to talk to someone to manage the transaction. The next wave of disruption to banking over the past 10 to 15 years created an interesting dynamic as we’re seeing a lot more collaboration between fintech and banks.”
Growth in the industry
“Consumers are 20 percent of our business. Those needs come and go and we need to continue going after the next client. It’s a good business but there’s a lot of competition out there, like Transferwise. Corporate customers and e-commerce is very big for us. In the U.S., a lot of people still deal with the banks. Many owner/operators of businesses don’t understand currency exposure of working internationally. If you look at e-commerce, growth is being driven by e-commerce marketplaces you’ve never even heard of.”