WorldFirst launches international payment platform

By Ryan Weeks on Tuesday 9 May 2017

Alternative LendingDigital Banking

Payments firm mounts challenge to banks targeting globally active small businesses.

It’s not enough just to be a payments provider these days. Nor it is enough to be a peer-to-peer lender, or a currency exchange tool. Instead, becoming a bank, or at the very least bank-like, is all the rage. And payments firm WorldFirst isn’t about to be left behind.

The fintech firm yesterday announced the launch of its World Account – an international payments platform for small businesses and online sellers. The firm says that the new account delivers “international banking functionality”, stripping administrative burden and cost out of operating cross-border.

WorldFirst’s global head of programmes Toby Wooton said that the firm doesn’t position itself as a bank, and isn’t regulated as such. But he conceded that the new account is a more direct challenger to the banks than what went before.

Until now, WorldFirst has been more or less wholly focused on facilitating foreign exchange transactions. But the World Account allows small businesses to open local bank accounts around the world with no fees, to hold GBP, EUR and USD, and to receive incoming and make outgoing local payments on a single platform, accessible online or via an app.

WorldFirst makes it money by charging a small spread on international transfers and payments.

The new service is somewhat similar to banking challenger Revolut, only for businesses, rather than indivduals. Although interestingly Revolut currently has pre-registration open for a business banking solution of its own.  

The opportunity for WorldFirst could be significant. Its own research shows that over 1.5 million UK SMEs are trading £76bn globally every month (see infographic below).

“This is a significant contribution to the UK economy,” said Jonathan Quin, co-founder and CEO of WorldFirst. “It’s time that small and medium-sized businesses enjoyed the same products, price and service that was only previously available to big businesses.”

Pre-registration for the World Account is now open for UK and Europe businesses and online sellers. Beyond summer, WorldFirst expects to add further functionality and additional currnency accounts.

WorldFirst has helped over 120,000 people, SMEs and online sellers to transfer over £60bn since launching in 2004. The firm has more than 600 employees spread across offices in the UK, US, Hong Kong, Singapore, Holland and Australia.  

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