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Reflections After the First Year

May 15, 2011

The original idea for CurrencyFair was driven by my own personal frustrations, as an expat, with sending money internationally. The internet had come along and upset middle-men in pretty much every industry I could think of, depressing margins and generally resulting in better value for the consumer all round. Why then, did it cost me at least 3% of my money simply to exchange it into another currency and send it overseas, a process that cost the bank very little? We set up CurrencyFair largely because we knew that the peer-to-peer idea could work in this industry as it had in others. In fact, it seemed inevitable that the ridiculous margins being charged simply couldn’t last.

It’s now just over a year since we went live (Happy Birthday to us!), and we now have a better idea about why people like using us. Saving money is key, of course, but as it turns out, that’s not the whole story. We also get a lot of good feedback directly on our customer service, and we see some good comments about it on online forums, which is great. We’re making it a priority to maintain these standards, and developing some internal systems to make sure that we can scale these service levels as we continue to grow.

We’ve also found that we’re catering for two different types of customers; those that like to exchange straight away at the best rates available, and those that prefer to pick their own rate and wait to be matched. For the former, we’re working on a ‘quick trade’ system which will allow any given amount to be exchanged immediately without having to go near the marketplace and worry about the amounts available at each rate. The latter group tell us that they love the control they have over the exchange process. No other currency exchange service allows you to potentially beat the market, achieving better than the wholesale, or ‘interbank’ rate on your exchanges.

What we find particularly fascinating is that some people are interested not just in what we do, but also how what we’re doing fits in with broader social trends. It seems that many view what we’re doing as a natural evolution of social media, sort of a ‘Facebook meets banking’ idea. Check out this interesting article in The New Europe magazine which is along these lines.

I personally see CurrencyFair as a facilitator. We don’t just help people with complementary currency needs connect, but as a regulated entity we also add much-needed legitimacy and trust to the process. We ‘hold the money’, if you like, while allowing people to meet anonymously and strike a deal beneficial to them both. We also step in to provide liquidity in the event that more money is flowing one way than the other, ensuring that there’s always an option to exchange immediately at a great rate.

So it seems there are more reasons to like us than just saving money! We’re bearing this in mind when we consider ways to improve the service in the coming months. As always, feedback is extremely welcome. Please get in touch if you have any thoughts on the above, or ideas on where you’d like us to be by our second birthday!

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