TransferWise rebrands as Wise, to hire over 70 new staff in Singapore

Wise has three products, with money transfers being the core feature of the Wise account. PHOTO: TRANSFERWISE/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - British-based digital payments firm TransferWise on Monday announced its rebranding to Wise and the expansion of its Singapore office to grow its regional footprint.

More than 70 employees in the Republic will be hired for roles, including expansion, engineering, product and operations in a new larger office space, adding to its current headcount of around 150. This comes as the Asia-Pacific is fintech's fastest-growing region.

In a press statement, Wise said the expanded presence allows it to better serve regional consumers, businesses and bank partners, and drive business growth into new markets.

Mr Venkatesh Saha, Wise's head of Asia-Pacific expansion, told The Business Times that the economies in the region are now at the forefront of innovation, especially when it comes to payments.

"We only have to look at the explosion in payment methods like GoPay in Indonesia, PayMaya in the Philippines and bKash in Bangladesh to see it. What's unique here is that innovation in payments is not just 'bottom-up', but also 'top-down' and being fostered by governments which are modernising their domestic infrastructure to make payments instant and more convenient for consumers," he said.

Examples include PayNow in Singapore and DuitNow in Malaysia. But unlike Europe, much of the innovation here has happened at "domestic levels", leaving the cross-border problem largely unaddressed, he noted.

To add, businesses in the Asia-Pacific are very global - over 70 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region already export beyond the region. People in the Asia-Pacific are also more connected than their counterparts in other regions, said Mr Saha, noting that these factors make solving cross-border payments issues more critical here.

Wise has three products, with money transfers being the core feature of the Wise account. It processes £4.5 billion (S$8 billion) in cross-border transactions every month, with customers saving around £1 billion a year compared with making the same transaction with their bank.

Wise Business, the business account for corporates, has all the features of the personal account and extras such as bank feeds, mass payouts and multi-user access. More than 150,000 businesses joined in the last 12 months.

In Singapore, for example, SMEs form 90 per cent of businesses and are also some of the top exporters in the region. Many of these firms cite foreign exchange issues as one of the top barriers to their growth, said Mr Saha.

"In today's Internet-driven economy, being able to move at speed and scale is no longer an option, it is often business-critical. Slow, cumbersome and expensive processes can stymie small businesses even before they get a chance to start," he explained.

To grow its partnership network with other players, Wise also has a platform for firms like Monzo and Xero to tap the Wise infrastructure. The platform is live, with banks in 10 countries across four continents.

Mr Saha told BT that the firm's name change reflects the growth of the platform and products built over the last decade.

"Over the past 10 years, we've created a global network which allows our customers to not just move money across borders more cheaply, quickly and conveniently, but also help them manage their multiple currency needs," he said.

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