No longer happy with appealing just to indie early adopters looking for an alternative to the banks, TransferWise has today announced it is to alienate hipsters everywhere by jumping head first into the mainstream. Billy Bambrough speaks to co-founder Taavet Hinrikus about mobile adoption, European expansion and a potential Facebook deal
Can we still call peer to peer international money transfer service TransferWise a start-up? Not with any confidence now it has announced that it is moving beyond the "early adopter phase" to challenge the banks for the mainstream customer.
As part of this move TransferWise has redesigned itself from the ground up, overhauling its website, logos, mobile apps, and advertising. Despite its rapid growth and move to the mainstream, co-founder Taavet Hinrikus maintains the company is a start-up.
"We’re a fast growing company, now with 160 employees but I would still consider TransferWise a startup.," Hinrikus told EPI.
In April 2014 TransferWise hit the £1bn ($1.63bn) money moved milestone, great growth considering that in May of 2013 TransferWise had only just hit the £125m milestone (for comparison, competitor Small World FS had moved £10bn by the end of March 2014 and has been going since 2005).
Despite a move to the mainstream the company continues to base its marketing campaign around the disruption of the existing banking market, with its first ad featuring a smug banker strolling through his office, post-party, explaining how he makes a killing on transactions, before settling down to move some of his own money using TransferWise, declaring the party over due to TrasferWise.
Hinrikus said that the decision to stay with the image as an alternative to the traditional banks is a conscious one. "Mainstream customers will not be a harder sell than the people that currently use and benefit from our services. All financial services customers are just as interested in using services that save them money."
Hinrikus revealed that TransferWise is in talks with several banks within the UK and abroad to integrate its services.
With the way customers interact with service providers changing Hinrikus admits the company had a slow start on mobile, but accepts that it is ultimately the future.
"We fully expect that the majority of our customers will eventually interact with us through a mobile device, and we want to be available to customers on any mobile device they choose, whether that’s phones, tablets or watches."
While the UK is still TransferWises’ core market it is increasingly looking beyond the UK and expansion into Europe.
There has been a persistent rumour that TransferWise is poised for a deal with Facebook. Hinrikus could not confirm or deny the rumour but said that Facebook was certainly interested in expanding into financial services.
"The global financial services market is changing and Facebook is going to be a part of that change."
TransferWise started in early 2011, making transfers between just British Pound and Euro. It has since added a further 150 members of staff and 252 currency routes. The firm calculates its growth between 20-30% a month.