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The FX Game Changer

Entrepreneurs 19-06-2018

Rishi Patel is the founder and CEO of The Currency Account – an online foreign exchange platform that’s reinventing the way businesses manage their money. AWM sat down with him to find out more…

The world of currency exchange has been dominated by banks, brokers and money transfer agents for decades. Rishi Patel is on a mission to change all that by going against the grain as founder of a financial technology platform that enables businesses and consumers to access premium exchange rates and no longer have to pay hidden fees.  

Nice to meet you Rishi. Tell us a bit about your business background…

I’ve always been passionate about the financial markets, especially foreign exchange. One way or another foreign exchange has always been a part of my adult life. I set up a few online businesses before and during my time at the Cass Business School that involved importing from international suppliers and selling to consumers abroad. I recall supplier payments being a major pain point. After I had spent so much time negotiating a decent price with my supplier, the bank fees and costs associated with currency exchange would literally destroy all of my efforts and more within minutes.

During my career in the City, I worked for various financial institutions both on the buy-side and the sell-side in FX and thereafter moved into the corporate and retail currency exchange sectors. Just before starting my company, I was part of the founding team for a start-up travel card business that went on to float on AIM. That’s where I caught the start-up bug!

Where did the idea for The Currency Account come from?

Having worked in virtually every type of business associated with currency exchange it was obvious to me that there was no bigger problem than that faced by small businesses trading internationally. No one was helping them! I just couldn’t understand why these companies continued to get very unfair exchange rates and why the banks and power brokers got to hold the monopoly on the market.

Having directly experienced the problem myself, on many occasions, I had a very clear understanding of their frustrations with the lack of transparency, inflated margins and hidden fees.

These companies need a simpler, more efficient and helpful way to manage money, especially when trading on a global scale. While the internet has opened up endless possibilities for international trade, the financial infrastructure to actually manage multiple currencies and process international payments is not available to those companies that need it the most. We’re changing that!

Our platform is packed with useful but simple tools and features, we’ve built something that our users say is the best multi-currency banking service they have ever experienced. We are amazed at how many companies already use our account as a genuine banking alternative.

What is your key differentiator from other currency exchange businesses?

Where do I start! We’ve got rid of all the aspects that made the currency exchange industry unpopular. We don´t complicate with jargon. We don´t charge high fees to pay for a huge sales force. We don´t increase spreads once you start to trust us. We don´t push you into transactions by convincing you it is in your best interest to exchange. We don´t keep you in the dark about our fees. And finally, on the homepage of our website you won´t find benchmark currency exchange rates that bear no resemblance to reality. Believe it or not, the rates you see are the actual rates you get on our platform! We’re offering a product that gives our users complete transparency – and, we hope, complete peace of mind.

How have you managed to break through the complex regulatory hurdles in financial services?

Before we were approved by the UK FCA, we spent a lot of time explaining the need for a new and innovative approach to currency exchange and international payments and how we could solve the problem in a compliant way. A lot of banks in the UK no longer support new entrants into the sector due to the costs of compliance oversight and potential money laundering risks. This has left a bit of a vacuum for new start-ups that are trying to disrupt and innovate on the existing business models and market opportunity.

However, we were fortunate and have managed to break through these barriers. We have focused very hard on our compliance procedures and the company also regularly has independent audits of our processes. Our IT and technology development has also been reviewed in detail by various independent parties. The banks saw that we were taking these areas of our business very seriously and also recognised the potential we have to scale the business proposition and therefore partnered with us earlier in our development.

Who are your typical customers?

Our core product is predominately designed for businesses looking to stay in control of overseas multi-currency cash flows and manage currency payment in a cost-efficient way. These companies can also pay international suppliers and receive international payments, maximising their saving and profits respectively. Most of our client bases are either online B2B businesses or e-tailors supplying the consumer market. We’ve already saved some companies tens of thousands of pounds within a few months from them opening an account with us.

We also have significant demand from consumers each and every day. Our team process transfers ranging from a few hundred pounds for remittance payments or other purchases abroad to potentially millions of pounds for a new property purchase.

What, if any, impact will Brexit have on your business?

UK-based FCA Authorised financial institutions currently have the ability to ‘passport’ their operations and cross-border business within the EU. Losing our passporting rights is expected to be costly as the company will have to set up separate European subsidiaries. However, like most companies in the financial services sector, we have established our Brexit plans and we will begin to execute them at the appropriate time. With regard to our core trade, the UK comes as a first priority, we can worry about the rest of Europe after we have sufficient traction here!

Do you have any plans to develop the business in the future?

Absolutely. We are incredibly excited to start moving into the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning space and we are also building algorithms to continuously improve our backend. This investment will make a huge difference to our user experience and ultimately processing an international payment will be as simple as sending an email or chatting on Whatsapp.

The parent business of the group, Wirepayer, has also now been approved as a Principal Member of Mastercard and is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK to issue E-money. As an approved card issuer, we can provide a BIN Sponsorship service where we can issue Mastercards and manage the transactions across the Mastercard network. The cards we issue will be accepted at millions of locations in hundreds of different countries across the globe. This will also enable significant B2B opportunities for the group.

 

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