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TransferWise: using creative thinking to disrupt banking


Enough people have sworn about the state of banking, the bonuses, the unfair charges. Every once in a while, an entrepreneur will decide to use creative thinking to remedy a real problem experienced by real people, everyday. That’s how TransferWise was born: the currency exchange benefiting people, not banks.

Skype’s first employee Taavet Hinrikus took the disruptive ethos involved in making Skype a household name to the banking industry. Could he disrupt banking in the same way that Skype had disrupted telecommunications? He and his friend Kristo Käärmann regular spent time jumping between the UK and Europe and realised they could exchange money – Euros and Sterling to suit their rent and mortgage bills – between each other and be much better off for it.

Their knowledge of finance and communications saw them launch TransferWise: a community of people who want to exchange currencies without paying high bank fees. Now expats, foreign students and businesses and well as other people with a regular need to change currency can wire money securely, conveniently, and at a very low cost. The handy home page calculator even shows an example of how much more money you will get versus the same exchange at a bank.

The website explains: “To find a suitable exchange rate, the friends picked that day’s mid-market rate on Reuters. At TransferWise, we simply call it the real rate. (By the way, banks and currency brokers never use this rate with you.)”

Is this type of creative thinking to solve a real life problem scalable? Given the imaginable increasing need for it and the growing ease and comfort with which people use the internet, not to mention the distrust of banks, demand is evident for creative thinking to disrupt banking.

Note: many thanks to 100%Open for inviting us to their Spring Union event, where Taavet Hinrikus was a speaker.

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