Travelex: Colin Swain, Global Head of Product and Operations for International Payments.

Travelex are one of the most instantly recognisable currency exchange providers in the world and have fought to keep market share through a ongoing process of digitalisation. We sought to find out about their involvement in new challenger bank, Ditto, thoughts on PSD2 and why customers should pressure-test banks digital UX by losing their wallets. This is FinTech Connect in conversation with Travelex’s Colin Swain, Global Head of Product and Operations for International Payments.

Travelex announced a £25m investment fund designed to spur digital innovation through partnerships with start-ups back in 2014, can you provide us with an update on any of the key alliances which have been brought about as a consequence of the fund?

The driving force behind the investment fund was to help create alliances with digital innovators, as well as to develop Travelex’s own digital capabilities. Three years down the line we now have a full-stack digital payments platform built utilising the cloud, which has been launched across two markets. We also continue to attract best-in-class digital talent to grow our in-house team of highly skilled engineers and product managers.

In terms of specific alliances, we have a network of partners who support us and our customers in navigating the complexities in the world of cross-border payments and global money transfers.  Working closely with Amazon, we remain an early adopter of the latest AWS developments. With support of our payment partners, such as Currency Cloud, we are in active discussions with blockchain providers and innovative start-ups who could make the process of moving money whilst maintaining security and integrity.


News recently broke of Travelex’s involvement in brand-new challenger bank Ditto, billed as the world’s first truly global bank designed for frequent travelers. Is Travelex’s endorsement of Ditto a clear play for the banking market?

At Travelex we always look for opportunities to offer financially viable solutions for our customers. Whether this moves us into the banking market or not, is less important.

Travelex is a credible money transfer expert with over 40 years’ of industry track record in currency exchange. In a converging global marketplace, consumers continue to become more transient and require simpler ways of managing their money across currencies and countries. Challenger brands such as Ditto simply illustrate that Travelex understands this demand and is investing in meeting an emerging customer need.


Speaking on behalf of world’s largest non-bank supplier of foreign currency, is it more important to stand and compete with digital FX providers or embrace collaboration through M&A and partnership?

The most important need is to understand and address the needs for our customers.  Therefore, we continue to invest in developing our own business capabilities as well as building the right partnerships to support the full end-to-end solution for the customer.

Travelex has always been a global enabling platform for cross-border value exchange, both physical and virtual. We focus on our heartland of building the right experience to move money internationally and find the right partners to support us.  This is part of Travelex’s DNA – we’ve always partnered with other retailers, financial institutions and other organisations to build the right solution for our customers – whether they are other FX providers or not.

This approach is even more important now versus ten years ago, as we move into a world of open banking and payments: the winners are those who truly understand where their expertise lies and consolidate their position in a marketplace of services.


Please finish this sentence. PSD2 is likely to result in [       ]

PSD2 is likely to revolutionise payments in Europe with innovative solutions being developed to meet customer needs. Travelex is very excited at this prospect.

However, I’m aware of that fact that for the new entrants in the FinTech space the third party access aspect of PSD2 is likely to result in short-term ambivalence followed by long-term disruption.


With the appetite for agile, digital-first capabilities and simultaneous branch closures all the rage for a number of incumbent banks, could the banking giants be starting a process of self-disruption?

I think this varies greatly from bank to bank.  I have four bank accounts in the UK and the differences between them are stark.  In the past decade, I’ve seen many banks stay the same, simply ‘digitising’ their existing products and services, and I’ve seen others embrace digital in a similar fashion to start-ups to create better experiences for their customers.  If you ever want to pressure-test banks experience, losing your wallet is a good way of doing it:

Ultimately, customers do not care about ‘agile’ or ‘digital-first’; they care about if their bank is offering them the service they require, at the right price, with the most simple and valuable experience for them. The ‘banking giants’ that will continue to prosper are those that focus on this proposition – and if this entails an amount of self-disruption, then so be it.


As the UK’s largest fintech exhibition, what will be the core message you would like to communicate to our audience at FinTech Connect Live later this year?

As we continue to progress through this FinTech revolution, the fundamentals of business and serving customers have not changed: we still need to focus on customer needs, still need to ensure we clearly distinguish our expertise in a crowded marketplace and we will continue to collaborate, albeit with more open and accessible platforms. So, I very much see FinTech as an enabler to solve more customer problems, more quickly.

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