Q&A with Erik from TransferWise!

(Richard Cook) #1

Hi everyone!

Yesterday we announced that we’re launching support for overseas payments in 16 currencies, supported by TransferWise.

We hope you’re as excited as we are for this. And as part of that, we’re thrilled that Erik Kaju from TransferWise will be answering your questions here on the forum this week.

@ErikKaju is leading the TransferWise debit card product engineering team. So feel free to ask him about that, the integration with Monzo, or just life at TransferWise in general!

So, drop your questions below and let’s get started!

(Herp Derp) #2

How did you come up with the colour of the card and what do you call it?


Why should I use Trasferwise for sending money abroad? There few other Apps like Azimo, Worldremit etc… how is Transferwise better than them?

(Erik Kaju) #4

Hello Danny! Thanks for your question, you were the first one!

In terms of design and choice of color, the smartest people in the company are in our design team. We just trusted them. They also took care of the design of the packaging. However the color and card design topic has been very actively discussed across the whole company. There is even a #whyisitgreen channel in our slack.

In the team, we call this color “the pay button green”. We have various ‘Send money’ or ‘Pay’ buttons in different payment flows of TransferWise and these buttons are always bright green on all platforms.
So TransferWise customers always pay with “Pay button green” and now they also carry one bright green TW payment “button” in their wallets as well :slight_smile:

(Valeri) #5

What is the most challenging feature you’ve worked on and is there any new things on the near term product pipeline that you are excited about?

(Tom ) #6

Hey @ErikKaju!

I have a TransferWise card, and have also now linked up my TW account to Monzo.

What are the benefits of keeping the TW card now they are linked up?

(Henry Dennis) #7

Do you have any plans to enable transfers to (and eventually from) cryptocurrency exchanges? It was the one reason I signed up and never used the TransferWise platform. Instead I use Revolut who do allow such transfers.

(Erik Kaju) #8

Hello. Competition is never a simple topic. :grinning:

Always trust your gut and prefer companies that you trust and love.

I think it is our mission that has been attracting our 3M+ customers so far. TransferWise offers money without borders - instant, convenient, transparent and eventually free. Internally we talk about the latter a lot. We have been managing to drop prices across all markets on a regular basis. Sometimes even more than once a year depending on how quickly we succeed to optimise and develop new tech to cut down the unit cost.

We’ve built a unique global banking network across the world which means that, most of the time, when you send money with TransferWise it doesn’t actually have to cross borders. This way we achieve low prices and lightening fast transfer speeds.

Recently I paid from Australia to UK bank account with TransferWise and the money ended up on recipient’s account in just few seconds time. Faster than email about transfer competion! I am myself sometimes amazed how the platform performs and I’m happy to offer this experience to our customers.

In terms of competition, different providers have their own peculiarities. In most cases, TransferWise offers just much fairer exchange rate and tiny margin so we simply help our customers save more money. Often, our global coverage is superior and we are suitable for more people. Many customers value that there are no hidden fees - the fee model is simple, we don’t trick customers in any ways (fees are the same on any day of week and time of the day), we never tie anyone into subscription model and our upfront fees are all that you’ll pay.

However, competition is strong and sometimes TW is not the cheapest option. Then we are absolutely clear and transparent about that on our price comparison chart. At the moment our payment provider comarison chart feature does not have comparison data for transparency or speed. So while there are cheaper options, they might not be the fairest or the fastest.

And also, customers are very emotional about their finances and great customer care helps a lot. Last time I checked, our trustpilot score for customer support was above 9! We are very accessible - 23 hours a day via phone, email or live chat and in multiple languages.
On a regular basis I go to our CS floor and take customer calls myself. This is quite common practice among TransferWisers of different roles. So next time you call TransferWise customer support, you might speak to some engineer who is willing to be closer to customers and help them out personally :slight_smile:

(Erik Kaju) #9

Yes. Transfers from cryptocurrency exchanges to TransferWise do work.
However, you can not use TransferWise to send money to exchanges.

I consider myself a DLT tech enthusiast and there must be many others at TW too. With few engineers from TW I’ve been even involved in some cryptocurrency related open source projects (not related to TransferWise), I code some crypto related hobby stuff and own a mining rig… but it is all for fun.

For a strongly regulated financial institution like us, it requires effort to process cryptocurrency related transactions.
It is doable, but I have strong impression that many product teams in TW are focused on rather solving real problems of our customers. You know, many of customers are expats who work or study abroad, pay tuition, send money home, support their families, build businesses abroad etc. When I see why our customers actually need us, I understand why our product teams currently tend to prioritise enhancing speed, dropping prices, adding more currency routes higher than adding support for cryptos.

Monzo & Transferwise - Cryptocurrency
(Richard Bairwell) #10

I have a Monzo card and a Transferwise borderless card - is it worth keeping both as the integration progresses?

Will Monzo be able to accept international payments in using Transferwise without any additional ‘Reference numbers’ etc (i.e. just straight forward IBAN or ‘Germany bank account details’ etc)?

(Erik Kaju) #12

Keep both!

Unfortunately all issuers in the world are at risk for experiencing card payment processing issues time to time. Sad, but it has also has happened to both Monzo and TW. Whichever is your primary card, it is wise to always carry some backup card.

Monzo and TransferWise are very strong products but excel in quite different use cases!

Monzo is really great local UK bank account replacement. As a domestic product, it is amazing in so many ways. You know it well, that’s why you use Monzo :slight_smile:
There are strong ties between TW and Monzo, both are very mission driven and customer focused. I’m really happy that Monzo can now seamlessly offer TransferWise technology to customers who occasionally need to transfer money overseas, cheap and quick.

TransferWise is advanced international solution. It is a powerful service for cross-border transfers. We also offer APIs and specific tools for international businesses.
Our customers find Borderless product as a great replacement for overseas bank accounts.
Borderless account is free - no subscription, no sign up fees, no cost to order a card, no small print.
It offers local bank details in United Kingdom, EU, USA and Australia - customers get paid from countries around the world, in the local currency, with zero fees. Customers can hold money in over 40 currencies - convert between them in seconds with the real echange rate and low, transparent fees.
+contactless MasterCard debit card for stress free spending in any currency, at the real exchange rate. Many customers benefit from it while travelling.

TW is helpful for people who move abroad - no need to wait for a social security number or proof of address. Students studying abroad who avoid going through the initial bureaucracy of setting up a local bank account. Freelancers/sole traders getting paid by overseas clients etc.

TransferWise focuses on specific segment of customers who live international lives and we want to be the best for them.


Hi @ErikKaju

I’d like to ask couple of questions about TransferWise Borderless Account.

  1. Do you have any plans for creating an online community akin to Monzo’s?

  2. The charges for converting currencies in Borderless Account are reasonable for those who are using it to transfer money as competitors are in most cases more expensive than TW. However, the same charges are being applied to those who use your Debit Card for overseas purchases which makes your product more expensive than others with similar features, e.g. Revolut. It is also more expensive than MasterCard rates in 9 out of 10 cases. I tested it myself and you can find other comparisons from online publishers such as MSE and others. Not a great option for a price sensitive spenders.

In short, your currency exchange pricing is great for transfer, but unfortunately is not competitive for casual overseas spending with TW debit card. This limits the appeal of Borderless Account to users in the know. What can be done to resolve this disparity?

Finally, big thanks for operating transparent business model in the age of sneaky charges and dishonest advertising. The fact that your charges and rates are displayed in the app prior to proceeding with the transaction is something to be celebrated. Some competitors are not behaving well in this area :frowning_face:

(Erik Kaju) #14

I think one really memorable feature was our fair automatic fx conversion mechanism (we cal it magic conversion) behind card transactions.

Not so complicated technically (when built on top of our core TW tech) but it was quite puzzling when we were planning it on a whiteboard together with our balances team.

In case of card transactions that involve currency conversion, most card products in the world apply different exchange rate for authorisation (reservation of funds) and capture (finalising the withdrawal). It happens because normally there is >1 business day delay between reservation and final withdrawal. You probably have noticed that after your card purchases, internet banking shows that funds remain booked for some time. Often for days…
The rate fluctuates in the meanwhile and if transaction gets more expensive, banks adjust the final withdrawal value. Often customers end up paying different amount in the end. And often more.

Reason is clear and understandable - it is easier to build it this way. Less fx risks, less settlement currencies to care about with scheme etc. But we felt that this is not transparent and fair for cardholders. If card transaction amount is not changing, we wanted to communicate the rate, fee and cost of transaction only once and stick to it until the end.

Also, normally there is just single currency account behind cards. In our case, there are balances of 40+ different possible currencies that customers can add or remove any time they want. Our system can use automatically one or multiple balances to fund transactions and do it in the fairest possible way.

Here are some examples.

  • If you’re buying something for 100 € and you have 150 € in your account, it’s free to spend.
  • If you’re buying something for 100 € and you don’t have a EUR balance, we’ll convert the amount needed from your available balance, and charge a conversion fee.
  • If you’re buying something for 100 € and you only have 90 €, but you have £100 in your GBP balance, then we’ll use the 90€, and convert the rest from your GBP balance, charging a conversion fee.

So behind each cross border card transaction there is actually plenty of magic happening. We calculate all possible fx conversion possibilities for given user and pick the cheapest one. Once authorised, the cost is final. And if merchant does not capture the payment or sends a reversal, we return original debited reservation amounts in original currencies. Plus, of course there are plenty of other corner cases like these. It was quite fun to build.

In terms of product pipeline. Right now, our debit card is available for customers located in the European Economic Area. I look forward to get cards in more hands around other parts of the world. Right now we see a lot of demand from customers in US, Australia, Pacific, Asia. Would really love to make all these users happy too.
Our business customers are excited about getting hands on their corporate debit cards. Can’t wait to get these out.
Also 3D Secure (Mastercard SecureCode for online transactions). I like ecommerce security. Excited to try out building it as frictionless as possible.