Everything you need to know about Wise

Burgeoning fintech Wise is in the enviable position of having grown profits year on year as it prepares to IPO. Discover more about the company’s development since its origins as a money transfer solution in 2010.

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What is Wise?

Wise, formerly TransferWise, is a UK-based fintech company originally focused on online money transfer services, but more recently branching out into consumer and business accounts.

Founded in 2010 by London-based Estonians Taavet Hinkirus and Kristo Käärmann, the company was started as a response to the pair’s experience of costly money transfers between UK and European bank accounts. In April 2012, the company raised $1.3 million to help grow its peer-to-peer service that matched those seeking exchanges, (eg, euros to pounds), to others looking for the reverse transaction (eg, pounds to euros), cutting out the banks and saving on fees.

The company raised a further $6 million in May 2013, $25 million in June 2014, and $26 million in May 2016. But from 2017 the sums moved into nine-figure territory, culminating in a $319 million round by July 2020.

As of most recent 2020 figures, the company’s revenues are in excess of £300 million, an increase of around 70% year on year, with around 2200 employees across 11 countries and more than 8 million customers. 

How does Wise make money?

Wise makes money from fees on cross-currency money transfers, with the wire transfer fee being a small percentage of the amount that is converted. The company also makes money from additional services linked to its consumer and business accounts, where customers are monetised through currency conversion fees. Finally, Wise has monetised API integration with other banks.

Is Wise profitable?

Wise is profitable and has been since 2017. Its latest net profit figure for the fiscal year ending March 2020 came in at £21.3 million, on revenues of some £302 million. This figure was up from £10.3 million for the same period the previous year.

Who are Wise’s competitors?

Wise has a vast number of competitors operating in the money transfer space. These feature the likes of Western Union, MoneyGram, WorldRemit, Remitly, PayPal, and a range of others. In the challenger bank space, the competition is more along the lines of Monzo, Revolut and Starling Bank.

Many of these competitors use the broad selling point of reduced fees compared to traditional banks, but there are a variety of differences between the various services. Some offer business transfers while others don’t, some simplify the fee structure more than others, some offer instant transfers, and some offer mobile wallet transfers, among other discrepancies.

Generally, Wise has been praised for its transparency of fees and for converting money at the true mid-market exchange rate, but as with any service in any industry, some of the competitors may suit the circumstances of particular individuals more than others.

What is Wise’s strategy?

Wise’s strategy began with a clear mission: to offer a money transfer service with transparent, low fees, through an innovative peer-to-peer model. The marketing message was spread initially among friends, but it was only after the company achieved coverage on online tech resource TechCrunch that it secured its first customer.

A major milestone was hit when the company received backing after it won a Seedcamp program in 2011, but growth was hampered by the lack of a strategic PR story. After building one based on the concept of dissatisfaction with banks and hidden fees, the idea of a fast, cheap and convenient solution was reinforced.

Subsequent initiatives were to continue with that formula, but the strategy moved forward with content marketing, incentivised referrals and strategic brand partnerships to spread the message, attract customers and build revenue.

By February 2021, and after years of successful revenue and profit growth, Wise was settled on as the rebrand name, from TransferWise. The change represented the company’s diversification into additional banking services beyond money transfers, such as a multi-currency debit card, foreign currency bank details, and other services.

The refresh also conveyed the company’s desire to be seen more as a community of crusaders against traditional banking rather than simply a one-dimensional money transfer solution. Ahead of a potential IPO, it may be this more far-reaching mission statement that helps sell the flotation to would-be investors.

Who are the directors of Wise?

Wise has a number of key personnel that have helped progress the company to its current multi-billion-dollar valuation. Here are some of them.

Position

Name

CEO/Co-founder

Taavet Hinkirus

CEO/Co-founder

Kristo Kaarmann

Chief Financial Officer

Matt Briers

Chief Technology Officer

Harsh Sinha

Head of Business

Stuart Gregory

Chief Marketing Officer

Cian Weeresinghe

When is the Wise IPO?

The Wise IPO is pencilled in for May 2021, with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley appointed to manage the listing. The flotation is reportedly earmarked for London, and the deal could value the company as highly as $7 billion (£5 billion).

Interested in trading more upcoming flotations? Take a look at some of the other top IPOs for 2021.

How much is Wise worth?

Wise is worth around $5 billion (around £3.6 billion) based on its most recent valuation in July 2020, when it launched a secondary share sale of around $319 million (£230 million). However, as mentioned, the valuation post-IPO could be as high as $7 billion if the target is met for the transaction.

Previously, the company had been valued at $3.5 billion (£2.52 billion) following its $292 billion raise in May 2019.

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