SafetyWing targets digital nomads with a safety net

While in Ho Chi Minh City recently, I became a little sick.

I had the flu and spent a lot of the time looking at the ceiling and talking to my imaginary alter ego (the brain plays weird tricks when you’re running a fever) who was giving me a big task list in my delirious state. I dealt with it by going to the pharmacy and requesting prescription drugs…without a prescription. Not ideal.

It could have been much worse.

I’ve been fairly adventurous reckless over the years, prioritising exciting experiences over personal health and safety. I chose street food over fresh vegetables, for example, and allowed myself far too much exposure to the sun and often terrible air quality.

I thought often about repatriation (when you are flown to your home country in the event of an emergency) – especially while on the heavily trafficked streets of Vietnam – but did nothing about it. I very rarely visited a doctor. But I’m older now, and I believe wiser (though some might disagree).

Remote workers can feel more at ease when bouncing from one country to the next by doing the right thing and taking out insurance.

SafetyWing swoops in

Norwegian startup SafetyWing is targeting digital nomads specifically with¬† medical and travel insurance, which is which is available to everyone apart from nationals from Iran, Cuba and North Korea. The default length of coverage is 4 weeks (28 days), and helpfully moped/scooter accidents are included…

SafetyWing is not your typical insurance company: the business is staffed by digital nomads working across continents and time zones, so they get it and speak ‘our’ language – quite unlike the suits working for big insurance corporates, who have a very different travel experience. This is reflected on their easy to use website, though I’m not sure what the cartoon characters are about…

Taking advantage of a summer transfer window…with TransferWise

You will save US dollars if you use TransferWise

With the British pound sinking quicker than a Neymar dive, I figured that now would be a good time to take advantage of the exchange rate by making a global transfer out of Hong Kong.

I’ve done a few of these over the years from Asia, usually through the same bank – a global bank I won’t name – and always without a problem (though moving money from China was a tad tricky, owing to red tape).

But now I’m trying a different approach. The fintech revolution has produced many exciting startups that promise to do things better – among them TransferWise. TransferWise has received a lot of media attention recently, which is how I got to know about them.

In a nutshell, TransferWise makes it easy to transfer money across borders without it technically crossing borders. It does this by instead enabling the user to make a local transfer (which they can very easily to through the mobile app) – and they do the rest. This is convenient as it ‘bypasses’ intermediary banks and therefore hidden fees.

It also uses the Google exchange rate, which works out fairer than the method apparently used by some banks: adding a markup to the spot rate to increase the profit made on each transaction.

There are other great features, too. The Google exchange rate used by TransferWise is guaranteed for 48 hours while you make your transfer (a bit like booking a flight through an airline website and holding the price of the flight). You also can track the exchange rate as it goes up and down.

Wise words

Aside from the money transfer aspect, TransferWise excels at something else: communication. The traditional bank that I use is extremely corporate, communicating in a language that perhaps only lawyers or financial professionals can readily understand.

Not only that – the bank’s digital communications are archaic. To get a sense of how much I would be charged for executing a global transfer, I had to wade through more than one PDF on the bank’s website. It was cold and intimidating – and hard to trust. It’s almost as if they’re hiding behind a wall.

In contrast, TransferWise writes for humans. Through their website they address typical issues and concerns that people might face. They are quick to reply on social media, too. The following question I had was answered within 15 minutes on Twitter, which is mightily impressive:

It’s hard to imagine any traditional bank adopting a similar communications approach – they are typically highly conservative institutions bound by rules and regulations (and internal politics) – and “digital transformation” seems more of a buzzword than anything.

But the world is changing, and it’s the likes of Estonia with its e-Residency, e-wallets like Big Pay, and course TransferWise leading the charge. And thank goodness for that.

With great power comes great responsibility

Himalayas at dusk

I love Wikipedia, for all sorts of reasons. I love waking up and discovering that I had been looking at random entries like “deepest hole in the world” just before falling asleep the night before. It’s a treasure trove of delights, like this page on tennis’ Big Four I presently have open on another tab.

I also love The North Face. I’m even wearing their shoes now right now as I type these words, a striking yellow pair that has taken me up Makalu Sunset Peak in Hong Kong…and down again. So it’s a pity to see the avalanche of negative opinion after the company’s Wikipedia page was edited by an agency for SEO reasons (insert pun here on climbing up search rankings).

Was it a brazen attempt at marketing? The North Face is respected for its adventurous sportswear. That’s not for me to say, but it appears that events behind the scenes were more than a little convoluted.

What is undoubtedly true is that there are very clear rules around working with Wikipedia, which are repeated on the CIPR website for PR professionals.

A quick Google search will reveal that other agencies have found themselves in similar hot water over Wikipedia in the past. The Wikipedia question also came up in client projects I’d worked on in recent years.

At the end of the day, it’s a question of ethics. Editing Wikipedia is a doddle, far easier than, say, scampering up Lhotse. Anyone can do it, anywhere in the world. I can do it sitting on a beach in the Philippines with the waves massaging my feet.¬† But with greater power comes great responsibility.

We must do the right thing, always.