Interview: Abid Mumtaz, TransferWise for Banks, Global Head

We speak to our new Advisory Board Member, Abid Mumtaz, to discuss his ambitious plans for the future.

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Abid, fantastic to speak with you. Are you able to explain a little bit more about your role and what TransferWise for Banks is?

TransferWise is a global technology company, building the best way to move money around the world. In doing so, we have a vision of establishing a new global payments infrastructure for banks and businesses to tap into and access our low-cost, fast, and transparent service. TransferWise for Banks enables banks to give their customers the ability to send money to 80+ countries at the real exchange rate, without having to leave their banking platform. Powered by a bank-friendly API, this can be integrated into bank applications all around the world.

My role focuses on expanding our partnerships globally. Today, we already work with partners in Europe, North America and Australia including Monzo in the UK, N26 in Germany, ActivoBank in Portugal, EQ Bank in Canada and Stanford Federal Credit Union in the United States with more to be announced soon.

Why do banks and TransferWise partner together?
Since 2011 it is our mission to make money move without borders - instant, convenient, transparent and eventually free. Partnering with banks means we can bring fairer international transfers to more people, in a place where they already interact with their money - making it faster and more convenient for them.

It is easier than ever for customers to switch providers and with more choice and information on who to bank with, they are increasingly sensitive to price, speed and quality of service. This presents customer retention challenges as well acquisition opportunities. By delivering services that are the best-in-class and which address these expectations, we see banks increase both their customer satisfaction and engagement. We also see more banks pivot their digital transformation projects towards partnerships as a way to more rapidly replace outdated technology infrastructure, as well as enhancing efficiency and reducing costs.

Additionally, governments all over the world are looking into ways to implement transparency to protect consumers from hidden fees. According to the World Bank, it’s the single biggest factor that’s inflating prices for consumers who send money abroad. Thankfully, the European Union is leading the way in this area and is putting pressure on providers to come clean about their fees. Transparency has been at the core of our business since we started in 2011. So by integrating with TransferWise, banks can make sure to fully comply with regulation for cross-border payments.

How does TransferWise build trust and longevity with the banks it partners with?
Similar to how we build trust with our customers: through transparency, excellent customer service - we have an NPS that hovers around 80! - relentless focus and investment on product roadmap, and by building a sustainable business.

We’ve built a local banking network across the world that allows our customers to transfer money between countries at a fraction of the price they would pay with their main bank. In the UK for example, we’re up to five times cheaper than the banks. Similarly, we’re delivering money at speeds previously unheard of in the industry with more than 25% of all transfers being instantly completed end to end. Today, we’re a community of more than 7 million people that send £4bn in payments every month, saving themselves over £1bn a year.

What do you see as the USP of TransferWise? What have been the secrets of its unparalleled success?
Our entire team is laser-focused on our mission of making money move without borders. We strongly believe that for anyone on this planet, sending money across borders should be as easy as sending an email. Our more than 2,000 ‘Wisers’ spread across our 14 offices are completely aligned to making this happen. And yet, it’s still early days: we’ve solved just 1% of this problem and have a long way ahead of us - we’ll remain focussed on solving this one issue for everyone rather than diverting into other areas.

What impact is Covid-19 having on your business models?
Every business around the world is affected in some way. Right now people need our service as much as ever - they need to send money abroad to help loved ones, pay their bills and mortgages overseas, and manage their businesses across markets entirely online, from home. Thankfully, as a 9 year old business, we were well prepared for the move to remote working and that transition has been relatively seamless for us.

TransferWise recently launched in the UAE; how did that come about? Are there any other geographies you are looking at?
The UAE is home to 9.6 million people, with more than 80% born overseas and it is the second biggest outward remittance market in the world. Money transfers from the UAE reached $44bn / Dh160 billion in 2017. The majority of this money is still being sent with traditional providers - banks and cash brokers. AED was one of our most wished currencies for sending money with more than 15,000 of our existing customers requesting it. People are clearly ready for a faster, cheaper way to send money from the Emirates.

We’ll continue to carefully listen to our customers. At the same time, we’ll continue to enhance our offering in the markets we already operate in. Our multi-currency account including our clever debit card has been available in the UK and Europe for a while. Last year, we made it available in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. This year, we’re excited to bring this product to our customers in Japan.

Which fintechs are you excited about currently?
It is fascinating to see tech companies expand into new industry verticals, giving rise to this “super app” phenomenon - particularly across Asia. Tech companies, such as food delivery, taxi hailing, and messaging apps, are expanding their product offering into financial services. They have a large existing customer base, gathered valuable consumer behaviour data, and have the potential to disrupt the traditional players. I am intrigued to see how the market reacts to it. If anything, I think it will increase the focus on partnerships to drive customer adoption, experience and trust.

Finally fantastic you are able to join the FinTech Connect Advisory Board, what are you looking to learn from your peers?
I am really excited to join the FinTech Connect Advisory Board - thanks for having me! There are some really impressive individuals with a breadth of experience and sector knowledge. I look forward to learning about their respective industries, particularly how they look to stay one step ahead, adapt to opportunity, and identify problems that need solving. By getting together and learning from each other's insights, I think we could all deliver meaningful impact across our industries.