MoneyWithoutBorders: Wise Bullish On Financial Inclusion
“Staying on this thread, India is one of the most forward-thinking countries in the world when it comes to instant payments, thanks to UPI. We are also being linked to other countries in the region,” mentions Diana Avila, Global Head of Banking & Expansion, WISE
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Wise is a British fintech company and a digital cross-border money transfer solutions provider. It has now set its sights on disrupting outbound remittances from India, launching digital solutions in this space in the Indian market.
1. How did you start your journey? How Wise is different from others?
I’m from Colombia and moved to the UK to study and I found myself getting frustrated when I was trying to pay down my student loan back home and figuring out how it all worked across continents. I could see that I could send money to Latin America with banks and some other providers but this meant hidden fees, unfair pricing, not a clear process and no idea of when the money would arrive; until I heard about TransferWise as Wise was known back then, as a way to transfer money internationally. They were not offering transfers to Colombia, yet but when I got to use them to make the payment to the U.S, I got obsessed with the idea of bringing the product to Colombia and my region as I knew how much impact it would have on people.
I’m personally passionate about financial inclusion and after working for a law firm I decided I wanted to focus my career on helping to change the world of banking, making it fairer for everyone. I was excited by Wise's mission of 'money without borders' and having first-hand experience of how the product had helped me personally, I wanted to contribute and bring the service to other parts of the world where it is needed.
Wise is different in that it’s a global tech company with a big mission, while still being a startup at heart. It’s big enough to solve problems for millions of customers but small and nimble enough to be growing at the speed of light. It’s big enough to flip the industry on its head, but still small enough to have a long way to go.
2. How is the market and competition today?
Over the last ten years, Wise has grown from a simple money transfer service into an international account. In addition to serving consumers, we also serve businesses through Wise Business, the account for business customers to grow globally without the high fees and headache of a traditional bank. We also built Wise Platform, our infrastructure which enables banks, financial institutions and enterprises like Shinhan Bank, Aspire, and Xero to offer their customers world-class cross-border services. These are products we continue to build on, in addition to bringing them to even more places around the world.
Within the cross-border payments industry, it’s a massive space expected to hit $156 trillion this year according to Ernst & Young, and we’re still only scratching the surface with much more to solve for the benefit of consumers.
3. How has been your journey with the company so far, share a few key learnings with us?
I joined the Wise team in 2015 as the Banking Lead for Latin America. In this role, together with my team, we were able to bring Wise to Latin America through partnerships making it possible for customers to send money from Brazil, as well as receive money in Colombia, Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Brazil.
Now, I’m responsible for leading our Banking and Expansion Team globally, as part of our Leadership Team. Our Team is dotted all over the world, including in Mumbai where our India Country Manager Rashmi Satpute is based.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be laser-focused on our mission. In a fast-paced environment and industry like ours, it can be tricky to decide what to prioritise when everything feels important. Here, our mission to make money move around the world cheaper, faster, easier and transparently for our customers charts the course for us. With our mission as our Northstar, it makes us more aware and accountable on where, what and why we’re investing in something; and if it doesn’t serve the mission meaningfully, we wouldn’t do it.
4. What are some of the initiatives you have undertaken for markets in APAC, particularly in India?
The work that we do in all our regions, including in APAC is always tied to our mission pillars of price, speed, convenience and transparency. Asia Pacific is one of the fastest growing regions for us at Wise. Beyond just bringing Wise to as many more markets as possible in the region, like launching our Wise card in Malaysia, we’ve worked on some impactful initiatives like becoming connecting directly to Singapore’s instant payment system (FAST), dropping prices for thousands of customers in the region across many routes and starting to bring Wise Platform to markets like South Korea where we integrated with Shinhan Bank to power international transfers.
When we look at India specifically, we first launched transfers to India in 2013 as one of our first currencies in Asia. There’s a massive Indian population overseas and we’ve since enabled US Google Pay users to send money to Google Pay users in India via Wise.
Last year, after a lot of customer demand, we launched our services from India and we plan on building out a meaningful presence in India as we expand.
5. What are your plans for India? How are you overcoming the challenges?
We want to be able to continue to make moving money from India even faster, easier, and cheaper and we’ve already started to do that by dropping prices on certain routes as more and more people join Wise, allowing us to pass on those savings to customers.
A big piece we’re working on right now from a product perspective is working on bringing more of our products and services to India which include our popular multi-currency account and card, to help freelancers and international students going abroad as well as expats manage their money in a much better way.
6. Please share some of the trends that you are observing in the market of India as well as APAC?
The innovation and growth that we’re seeing in this region, especially in payments, are very exciting. India in particular is home to one of the most connected populations, and people are comfortable accessing digital financial services through their phone. As a result, digital payments have really taken off, recording 30% growth in FY2021 according to RBI data. It’s clear that consumers have come to expect seamless experiences for their payments — both for domestic and cross-border services.
We’re also seeing it being fostered from the 'top-down' by governments modernising their infrastructure to make payments instant and more convenient for consumers. So for example, you’ve got Singapore with PayNow, Thailand with PromptPay, Malaysia with DuitNow as their local infrastructure, but now with all governments taking it a step further to link it all together for seamless payments across the region.
We at Wise love that because it’s exactly in line with our mission of making payments instant and if governments are taking the step themselves to modernise their infrastructure, it will be a boon for companies like Wise to be able to leverage that to build better experiences for millions of customers and businesses in this region.
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