Airwallex pushing boundaries of business account in an increasingly borderless world

  • James Butland, VP of Global Banking & Europe at Airwallex

  • 14.02.2020 02:44 pm

Financial IT: Please tell us more about Airwallex and your background?

James Butland: Airwallex was founded in Melbourne in 2015 with a simple goal - to push the boundaries of a business account in an increasingly borderless world. Airwallex has since secured over $200 million USD in external funding, supported by top-tier investors including DST Global, Sequoia Capital China, Tencent, Hillhouse Capital, Gobi Partners, Horizons Ventures and Square Peg Capital. 

The company’s core strength lies in its proprietary tech-driven infrastructure to enable low-cost, high-speed and transparent international collections and payments. 

My background is in Financial Services, working for some of the world’s leading Asset Management, Hedge Fund and Fintech Firms. I joined Airwallex in 2018 to set up the European business; taking the firm through the FCA licensing process and scaling the team to provide payment services to European clients.

Financial IT: What are the major trends in the payments sphere this year?

James Butland: We’ve already seen some big acquisitions so far (Visa acquiring Plaid for $5.3 billion & PayPal acquiring Honey for $4 billion) and it’s only February. I think we will see a lot more consolidation throughout the year as a large wave of fintech businesses reach maturity. In terms of payments I believe there is going to be a continued focus in bridging the gaps between South East Asia and Western markets. Companies like Airwallex are at the forefront of making South East Asia more accessible for global businesses through providing local payouts in a wide range of currencies. 

Financial IT: Can you please tell me more about Airwallex’s products?

James Butland: Businesses today have a modern technology stack to support their business growth and to make their business operations more efficient. This could be Slack for communications, AWS for your cloud infrastructure or Xero for your accounting. We’re building Airwallex to be part of this modern business stack for SMEs and enterprises globally. 

SMEs are able to sign up and access the Airwallex web app online and instantly create global collection accounts with local bank details in the UK, US, Europe, Australia and Hong Kong. Through the web app customers can manage their FX, hold funds in 18 different currencies and send money to 130+ countries around the world.

We also open our APIs to other technology businesses across ecommerce, travel and education so they can utilise the features mentioned in their own infrastructure. 

Financial IT: Please give us a real-life case example of applying your service?

James Butland: Airwallex is the perfect platform for ecommerce sellers. It’s now easier than ever to buy and sell products all over the world through global marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba. One of the main issues facing ecommerce sellers is that payments and banking have been lagging behind. Although you can promote and sell your product easily, it can be difficult to receive the revenues without paying an arm and a leg in cross border fees… cutting into already tight margins. 

Airwallex allows ecommerce sellers to open global accounts with local bank details in the markets they operate to receive their revenue locally (avoiding the expensive fees charged by marketplaces and payment gateways). The sellers are then able to repatriate the funds back to their home country at industry leading FX rates the same day. They can also keep the revenue in the same currency to pay suppliers or tax in the market without having to exchange the funds.

Financial IT: Recently Airwallex announced the launch of the Airwallex Borderless Card for businesses, in partnership with Visa, Could you please tell us more about that collaboration?

James Butland: At Airwallex we’re looking to build an end to end payments platform for businesses of all sizes to manage their money globally. This global business account will solve a whole host of issues faced by businesses around the world when it comes to trading goods and services cross border.

The launch of our Borderless Card massively enhances our product offering by giving businesses the tools they need to operate more efficiently. The ability to generate new virtual cards instantly allows businesses to empower their employees to make purchasing decisions whilst giving management the relevant controls they need. We’re really excited to roll the product out to even more markets in the coming months.

Financial IT: What are the key milestones for Airwallex that we should look for in the next couple of years?

James Butland: Over the last few years we’ve experienced hypergrowth within our business whilst also focusing on building our banking network, infrastructure and acquiring licenses around the world. Over the next two years you will see us continue to invest in these areas and start to expand our footprint across Europe, the US and South East Asia. 

In terms of our product portfolio we’ll also be launching our acquiring product and enhancing our payout and collection capabilities.

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