Fintech unicorn Transferwise achieves first profit

Neil Ainger, Writer at
Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder and CEO of TransferWise at the the International Fintech Conference in London, U.K., on April 12 2017, where he announced the fintech’s intention to set up a new European office away from London due to Brexit.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.K. financial technology (fintech) firm Transferwise claimed it has achieved its first operational profit six years after it was founded in London by Chief Executive Taavet Hinrikus and his fellow Estonian Kristo Kaarmann.

The global fintech unicorn, which means it is a start-up valued at more than a billion dollars, is a currency exchange that offers a simple user interface and peer-to-peer network that it says matches customers wanting to swap money with each other. This means foreign exchange (FX) rates can be drastically reduced in comparison with bank charges where money is actually moved overseas.

Transferwise says it is currently amassing £8 million a month in revenue and is on target to reach £100 million ($129 million) for the year, placing it in the black on its accounts for the first time.

The online operation presently claims 10 percent of the overseas money transfer market in the U.K. and a growing global presence. It offers deals on 40 currencies and moves over £1 billion every month for more than a million customers, which it expects to double this year as it seeks to replicate its 150 percent growth rate last year. As the fintech expands its growth is likely to slow as it scales up.

In a statement Transferwise CEO, Taavet Hinrikus, said: "To have hit break-even just six years on from launch shows how strong the foundations of our business are. This is just the starting point. With the unique platform we've built, we're looking forward to creating a new kind of financial services for the future."

Its future prospects have been clouded by Brexit with the U.K.'s planned exit from the European Union (EU) threatening its access to talented staff from across the continent. The Estonian founders have already stated that they would not have been able to set up in London in 2011 under the threatened Brexit regime, which may deny U.K. firms access to the EU single market and free movement of people, depending upon how negotiations proceed.

Transferwise will move its European headquarters from London to the continent by March 2019, it announced last month, making its displeasure with Brexit clear.

The new European office is due to be established before the end of the two year divorce process between the U.K. and the EU, although the company has refused to say where it will be located yet.

The global headquarters will remain in London, where the company employs around 120 people, because it is already established in the country. But for EU-wide business it intends to set up a different office where the majority of its 700 staff globally will presumably move. The firm has also just launched an Asia-Pacific hub and has nine other small offices around the world.

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