TransferWise might be best known for its international money transfer app, but the European fintech unicorn has always had ambitions of being a broader platform play entirely agnostic of how you access the service. This includes providing banks with access to the TransferWise API to power their own international money transfer features. However, perhaps understandably — given that the company also competes with banks — these partnerships have been small in number.
With that said, today TransferWise is adding what looks like its most significant banking partner to date: BPCE Groupe, France’s second largest bank. The partnership will see TransferWise provide international money transfer services for BPCE Groupe’s 15 million or so customers, which, the company notes, is the first time a major bank in Europe will directly integrate TransferWise’s API into its mobile banking apps.
TransferWise’s existing bank partnerships are with Estonia’s LHV, and German challenger bank N26. It was due to add U.K. challenger bank Starling to the list, but the integration with the bank’s app never materialised and TechCrunch learned last week that the partnership has now dissolved entirely.
Meanwhile, the partnership between Groupe BPCE/Natixis Payments and TransferWise isn’t set to be launched until the beginning of 2019. Once it does launch, the bank’s customers be able to send money outside of the eurozone at TransferWise’s standard fees via the banks’ app.
“Both TransferWise and BPCE are committed to offering the best possible service and the fairest deal to their customers and this collaboration is an important step in making that a reality for everyone,” says TransferWise. “The service will enable BPCE customers to send money to over 60 countries at TransferWise’s usual low fee of 0.5 per cent on most currency routes and at the mid-market exchange rate”.
Adds Kristo Käärmann, co-founder and CEO of TransferWise: “TransferWise has a mission to make money move around the world as fast and as cheaply as email. This partnership is a momentous step on that journey – for the first time a major mainstream bank is offering its customers the chance to benefit from TransferWise’s lightning fast, low cost service. It’s proof that we can scale our technology, which will allow other big institutions to seamlessly integrate with the service”.
On that note, it will be interesting to see how TransferWise continues to walk the tight rope of partnering whilst, in some ways and with increasing feature parity, competing with the same potential partners.
The original target for the company’s consumer and business money transfer app was incumbent banks who typically charge high fees for international money transfers and aren’t always transparent about the way they mark up the underlying exchange rate. And more recently it has launched its “Borderless” account, a multi-currency banking product that includes a debit card and lets you deposit, send and spend money. However, TransferWise co-founder and Chairman Taavet Hinrikus has always insisted that the Borderless account is designed to work as a companion product to your main current account and not a fully fledged bank replacement.