This article showcases a range of fintech startups that were founded in the UK, and more often than not, London. Despite the challenges faced by Brexit, London remains a hotspot for finance companies. In particular, companies that focus on currency and remittance.
Some of the best international money transfer companies are startups because of their malleable infrastructure. Large, older companies struggle with legacy systems that are slow to progress, it is the young fintechs that are beginning to dominate international money transfer services (UK). Furthermore, user experience has also become a sole focus, in which finance is now carried out in an extremely accessible way on mobile apps. In a few clicks, it’s possible to open a Norwegian virtual bank account, transfer money to Australia, and even trade stocks.
With the aid of a directory of all international money transfer options, below is a list of companies that can help facilitate the transfer of money abroad online. Online money transfers have become easier and cheaper than ever before in a large part to the companies below.
Formerly known as TransferWise, Wise is perhaps the most well-known and exciting of the money transfer startups (UK). In part, this statement is factual, because it became one of only forty unicorn companies in the UK.
Founded in 2011, London, by two Estonians, Wise set out with an aim to change the world of finance: make it easy and fair to transfer money abroad online. As a result, Wise has developed a sense of fairness in their pricing, in which fees are often low but more importantly, consistent, and the experience of using the app is second to none. With Wise, users can open up many virtual bank accounts from around the world and even spend money on a single, borderless Visa card.
Founders: Kristo Kaarmann, Taavet Hinrikus
Who is it for? Those looking for low-cost, consistent fees for small transfers e.g. expats, nomads, freelancers, and small businesses.
Currencyfair is a 2010, Irish-based company with a British parent company (Standard Chartered UK Holdings Limited); perhaps not a startup for some people, but it’s a youngish fintech company that’s competing against others on this list. Currencyfair serves Europe, Australasia, and Canada.
With only 20 currencies supported, Currencyfair focuses on transparent pricing for low-to-medium-sized money transfers. It’s more used by individuals than businesses but has a slick app with competitive exchange rates.
Founders: Brett Meyers, Jonathan Potter, Sean Barrett and David Christian
Who is it for? Individuals looking for small transfers at competitive prices
Of all the currency startups on this list, Leatherback is the newest, being a fintech that was founded in 2019 by Ibrahim Toyeeb. The London-based company raised £7.6m in pre-seed funding and currently trades in 13 currencies with 12 offices globally and is regulated in 4 countries.
Leatherback isn’t another competitor to Wise and Revolut. Instead, the intention here is to offer more sophisticated solutions. A multi-currency wallet is available, but there is much more: Interest-earning account, liquidity management, analytics, automated invoicing, and API collections. Local payment solutions (i.e. QR) are also available, but ultimately, this is about having less friction for payments in other currencies.
Founders: Ibrahim Toyeeb
Who is it for? SMEs looking for API integration and a payment processor that performs well with the 13 currencies available.
Revolut shares a similar story with Wise. It has received similar amounts of funding (€309 million), was founded in London in 2015, but was founded by a Russian and Ukrainian passport holder (joint citizenship with UK). It quickly became considered as one of the best international money transfer providers.
Revolut also set out for a very similar goal to Wise with a very similar target audience (expats, small businesses, nomads). Revolut would go a step further to create a fee-free experience in which the interbank exchange rate is offered. Instead, they generate income in a truly unique way (for currency firms, but not unique for our times): a freemium subscription model.
Founders: Nikolay Storonsky, Vlad Yatsenko
Who is it for? Those looking for a fee-free experience with the option to subscribe and lift limits e.g. a small business that expects growth, digital nomads, freelancers. Also, anybody who wants other rewards and benefits, like free travel insurance when subscribed – the ultimate nomad package.
Azimo is 2012, London-based startup with operations around Europe thanks to its diverse founders. Azimo aims to be the fast and easy option for sending money around the world, and utilises state-of-the-art technology infrastructure to achieve this.
Azimo has users from around Europe (the website is translated into many languages), and it aims to be accessible with a £1 minimum transfer floor. It has a surprising number of countries as part of its network (195+) for a small startup, and you can even set up an account using Facebook. But, it only accepts payments in six originating European currencies.
Founders: Marek Wawro, Marta Krupinska, Michael Kent, Ricky Knox
Who is it for? Europeans who want a translated website, easy sign-up, and quick transfers.
Established in 2017, MultiPass is perhaps the second smallest startup on the list. Designed for Brits to use as an alternative to banks, MultiPass is concerned with blending “modern technologies and corporate-level customer service”. In other words, unlike many of its fintech competitors, they offer a dedicated dealer to serve customers.
MultiPass is perhaps more aimed at business, with its sophisticated “multi-functional and multi-channel” bank payments for global use. Whilst MultiPass will outperform banks in many areas, they are an Electronic Money Institution, meaning that FSCS deposit protection does not apply. This is the case with the other startups, too, but with MultiPass it is more relevant given their business-orientated sophisticated solutions that may mean dealing with larger amounts of money.
Founders: Dmitry Tsymber
Who is it for? Businesses looking for industry solutions to currency problems
TransferGo is a money transfer service founded in London by a group of Lithuanians. Whilst it performs well for money transfers overseas, it’s not much of a digital wallet. But for businesses, there are both batch payment features and API integration.
TransferGo is aimed at Europeans, much like Azimo, and has debit/credit card payments in 6 different European currencies. Whilst TransferGo struggles to stand out, it can send money efficiently to local banks in over 65 countries with an option for a 30-minute delivery.
Founders: Arnas Lukosevicius, Daumantas Dvilinskas, Edvinas Sersniovas, Justinas Lasevicius
Who is it for? Small European businesses looking for an API and batch payments
PaySend hit the headlines last year for raising $125m at a $700m valuation. The London-based startup was founded in 2015 by Abdul Abdulkerimov with a similar mission of changing how money is transferred around the world.
PaySend goes above and beyond when it comes to having 24/7 support (unlike Revolut) as well as being transparent with pricing. It connects nicely to Apple/Google pay whilst being able to transfer money abroad online to over 70 countries.
PaySend is actually critical of Revolut regarding the many features Revolut has, claiming it’s difficult to keep track. Simplicity is key for PaySend, and so is user experience. EUR, GBP, USD, Russian rubles, and Kazakhstani tenge are the 5 currencies you can top up and hold money with.
Founders: Abdul Abdulkerimov
Who is it for? A no-nonsense approach to sending modest amounts of money overseas. Also potentially useful for Russians.
Founded a few years earlier than the others, WorldRemit was founded in London in 2009 by Ismail Ahmed, Richard Igoe, and Catherine Wines. The money transfer company provides transfer and remittance services to over 130 countries (from over 50 countries) in over 70 currencies. Money can be received as cash, mobile airtime, mobile money, or bank deposit with WorldRemit.
Through over $400m in funding, WorldRemit has grown to fully establish itself as a low-cost money transfer provider. WorldRemit tends to favor fixed flat fees more than most of its competitors, meaning it can in turn offer a very competitive exchange rate.
Founders: Ismail Ahmed, Richard Igoe, and Catherine Wines
Who is it for? Users wanting cheap international money transfers of medium sums of money
Two non-UK startups embrace the competition
Below are two non-UK startups that are making things interesting by offering slightly different solutions but have the same overlap with handling foreign currency.
Founded in 2016, Papaya Global is situated in New York. The US startup is a cloud-based HR and payroll firm, making it a global PEO (EOR). In other words, this is a company that allows other companies to outsource their HR and payroll stuff to them when hiring overseas workers – a highly relevant facet of this post-pandemic, WFH global workforce.
So whilst the main focus here isn’t just currency, global payroll means that Papaya will handle these global payments to staff. This is a big use case of Wise and the like. Papaya can hire and pay to over 160 countries. They claim to have a small transaction fee and a competitive rate that outperforms Chase, Wells Fargo, and PayPal. It won’t be perfect and there are of course SaaS costs for using the company ($20 per employee, per month for payroll), but it’s a one-stop-shop that centralizes all of your overseas remuneration, paperwork, and HR.
Founders: Eynat Guez, Ofer Herman, and Ruben Drong.
Who is it for? Companies hiring overseas employees who don’t want the legal hassle of onboarding, nor the headache of handling multi-currency salaries.
Payoneer is the oldest company on this list, having been founded in 2005. The New York-based company is an online money transfer firm that focuses on digital payment solutions – a bit like a PayPal alternative.
There’s little use in accepting the higher exchange rate fees of Payoneer for an individual sending money privately, but it’s a convenient platform for businesses. Payoneer is a truly global firm with 24/7 support, and its billing service is used to make payment requests. FX costs are quite high meaning it shares the same limitations with PayPal, but it’s commonly used by freelancers to get paid in USD from the likes of Fiverr, Upwork, and Airbnb.
Founders: Yuval Tal
Who is it for? Freelancers and small businesses looking to send payment requests and receive USD in a convenient way.
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