UK payments firm to expand Singapore office, hire 70 staff here

Britain-based digital payments firm TransferWise yesterday announced its rebranding to Wise, and the expansion of its Singapore office to increase the size of its regional footprint.

More than 70 staff here will be hired for roles such as expansion, engineering and operations in a new larger office space, adding to Wise's current headcount of around 150. This comes as the Asia-Pacific is the fintech sector'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," he said.

"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."

Examples include PayNow in Singapore and DuitNow in Malaysia.

But unlike in Europe, much of the innovation here has happened at "domestic levels", leaving the cross-border problem largely unaddressed, Mr Saha noted.

Businesses in the Asia-Pacific are also very global - more than 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$8.4 billion) in cross-border transactions every month, with customers saving around £1 billion a year, compared with making the same transaction with a 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 said.

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

Mr Saha told The Business Times that the firm's name change reflects the growth of the platform and its 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 helps them manage their multiple currency needs," he said.

THE BUSINESS TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2021, with the headline 'UK payments firm to expand Singapore office, hire 70 staff here'. Subscribe