Taking advantage of a summer transfer window…with 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.

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