Digital Economy: Fintech startup Airwallex to expand in HK
Fintech startup Airwallex is looking to change standard operating procedures when it comes to sending money abroad. But can the company provide an efficient alternative to cross-border payments? Our correspondent Zhu Dan files this from Hong Kong.
A better way of sending money abroad. A new financial experience for customers.
JACK ZHANG, CEO & CO-FOUNDER AIRWALLEX "In the more globalized and digital economy, I believe everyone's financial experience should be instant, without any borders, and doesn't matter where you're in the world."
Jack Zhang – CEO and co-founder of Airwallex -- is helping reshape the world of cross-border payments.
JACK ZHANG, CEO & CO-FOUNDER AIRWALLEX "I was born in China, but I went to Australia when I was close to 16 years old. I did financing engineering bachelor's degree. I was always sort of try to work with friends in university to start a tech company."
Now with headquarters in Hong Kong, Airwallex was launched in 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. It allows customers to create accounts with their local bank details and send money to more than 130 countries through local and international clearing networks.
JACK ZHANG, CEO & CO-FOUNDER AIRWALLEX "One of our co-founders has retail business in Australia importing a lot of materials and packages from China and Southeast Asia. We found the cross-border payment is very inefficient, not effective. It could take days for cross-border payments to arrive to the recipient's bank account, and the actual fees in the middle could be over 3%-4%."
Through AirWallex, clients can – for example -- set up an overseas bank account to cater to their customers abroad. And they can easily move the revenue back to their home accounts through the AirWallex system at inter-bank rates. That's something that can save clients as much as 90 percent on foreign exchange. Plus, it massively simplifies the process of cross-border business transactions.
JACK ZHANG, CEO & CO-FOUNDER AIRWALLEX "What Airwallex try to do is basically building API integration into every single local currency system which is built in the last decade to allow real-time payment, and interconnect from into a global payment network. So that we can process a cross-border payment from a processing speed the efficient perspective like a domestic payment."
Airwallex recently raised 100-million US dollars through funding led by DST Global, a financial firm that has backed companies like Facebook, Airbnb, and Spotify. The move values Airwallex at 1 billion US dollars, granting the startup its "unicorn" status. Today, the company has eight offices worldwide with more than 2-hundred staff – as it has helped send billions of dollars across the globe through its payment networks.
JACK ZHANG, CEO & CO-FOUNDER AIRWALLEX "We've only done less than 10%, we haven't really done much in South America, the Middle East, Africa, those sort of developing countries. And we are keen to expand our footprint to bring more offline banking financial product into online."
ZHU DAN HONG KONG "A global financial infrastructure in the CLOUD, that's what Airwallex is all about. Money movement, along with various financial products. Everything you need in a physical bank, you can now find on the cloud. This begs the question: Are the days of traditional banking numbered? Zhu Dan, CGTN, HK."