TransferWise Raises Another $26 Million for International Growth

  • Scottish pension firm Baillie Gifford leads investment
  • U.K. money transfer startup eyeing Latin America, Asia

TransferWise, the U.K. company that’s trying to upend the world of international money transfers, raised an additional $26 million to fund expansion in Latin America and Asia.

The latest investment, led by Scottish asset management firm Baillie Gifford, brings the total amount TransferWise has raised to $117 million, the company said Wednesday. TransferWise didn’t disclose its valuation after the latest investment, but some news reports, including TechCrunch, said the company was valued at more than $1 billion -- making it one of London’s few unicorns.

A previous $58 million investment was led by U.S. venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz in January 2015. Other investors in the money transfer firm include Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

The company, which gained notoriety in Britain with a series of provocative advertisements attacking banks for ripping off customers on poor exchange rates and extortionate international wire-transfer fees, promises customers they can move money internationally at the mid-market exchange rate for a low commission -- usually less than 1 percent of the transaction value. TransferWise claims that on average a customer can move money for eight times less than what the average bank charges for the same transaction.

TransferWise, which has more than 1 million customers, said it will use the additional funds to continue its expansion into new markets later this year, including Brazil, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand. The company already offers 600 currency routes and is currently processing more than 500 million pounds ($735 million) in transactions every month. Launched in 2011, TransferWise now employs 600 people in offices in the U.K., Europe and the U.S.

The company’s growth has not been without hiccups. In the U.S., it was fined by the New Hampshire banking authorities for operating without the proper license. It has since shifted to working with a fully-licensed bank, New York-based Community Federal Savings Bank, and has obtained its own money transfer license in many states.

And in the U.K., the advertising regulator ruled that it had made misleading and unverifiable claims that it could save customers 90 percent on international transfers compared with banks. It has since dropped that marketing language.

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