Photo: Transferwise/Courtesy

TransferWise wants to offer its borderless multi-currency account in Brazil

Service created in 2018 has not yet arrived in the Latin American country due to the lack of a license. When that happens, local fintechs will have a strong competitor

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What some Brazilian fintechs are offering, TransferWise, a startup founded by two Estonians in 2011, in the United Kingdom, has been doing since 2018: global accounts, with a balance in dollars, euros and other foreign currencies. When it launched the service, the company already known in Brazil for the service of international remittances with the commercial dollar rate, filed for a license with the Brazilian Central Bank to operate as a foreign exchange broker in the country, but the authorization has not yet been given.

Only with this license will TransferWise be able to bring its borderless multi-currency account and other services to the country. Today, the fintech operates as a foreign exchange correspondent in Brazil, serving only those who make transfers for their own availability or for other residents. But when the license is given local fintechs will have a strong competitor.

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From 2018 to now, the company has seen the amount transacted and the number of employees more than triple. “Today we transact $5 billion per month globally. Two years ago, the volume [transacted] was a quarter of that, and the number of employees, one third of the more than 1,300 that we have today,” explained the general manager at TransferWise in Brazil, Heloísa Sirotá to LABS.

The company arrived in Brazil in 2016. Without revealing exact numbers, Sirotá says that the Real is always among the top 5 most traded currencies by the fintech worldwide–which also means that the country is one of the company’s main markets.

The great thing about the startup founded by Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmannem in the UK nine years ago is precisely the use of the commercial dollar, which is much cheaper than the tourism dollar. TransferWise is able to do this because it forms partnerships with local banks in the countries where it operates and it is from them that it sends the money, already in local currency, to the recipients of the remittances.

In Brazil, TransferWise operates in partnership with Banco Rendimento and MS Bank.

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Most fintech customers in Brazil–also in other countries–are parents who have teenagers and young adults studying abroad, or Brazilians who have emigrated and want to send money to their families in Brazil.

Photo: Thiago Queiroz/Transferwise/Courtesy

Another public that has grown is that of retired Brazilians, who leave the country, mainly towards Portugal, and use TransferWise to send the pension they are entitled in Brazil to the new address

heloísa sirotá. general manager at transferwise brazil.

TransferWise’s multi-currency account allows the customer to send money to himself in a even cheaper way (as if it were a remittance, in which the tax on financial transactions existing in Brazil, for example, is 1.1% against the 6.38% of an operation credit card) and receive money, even in other currencies, without spending anything.

This is possible through a debit card linked to this account and which, at each transaction, takes into account the commercial dollar rate.

Unlike the credit card operation, in which the amounts spent in other currencies are converted on the date of purchase or the date of payment of the invoice and are added with all conversion fees, there is no fee on the TransferWise debit card currency conversion.

With the exchange broker’s license, TransferWise also intends to offer international transfers between corporate accounts, focusing mainly on small and medium-sized companies, including those that carry out import and export operations. Combined with the legislative proposal that the Brazilian Central Bank sent to the House of Representatives in 2019 and that should be voted on this year, this service can greatly reduce the operating costs of this type of company.

“Today we operate with 3 types of usage of foreign exchange operations. There are hundreds of types listed by the Brazilian Central Bank. With the exchange broker’s license we intend to operate with at least 16 others”, adds Sirotá.

In Latin America, the company sends money only from Brazil, and receives money in six other countries in the region. But that should change soon. TransferWise has plans to operate in the same way that it operates in Brazil also in Chile and Mexico.