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International businesses could win big on savings with 'borderless' accounts

  • London-based financial tech firm TransferWise's new "borderless account" allows users to hold money in multiple currencies
  • That could help businesses conduct their activities much more efficiently and save on transaction costs
  • Blockchain-based start-ups are also starting to offer similar transaction solutions

London-based financial tech firm TransferWise's new "borderless account" allows users to hold money in multiple currencies, and that could help businesses conduct their activities much more efficiently, according to the start-up's CEO.

"In addition to keeping a balance, which you can do in 27 currencies, you will also get local account numbers in U.S., in U.K., in Europe," TransferWise chief Taavet Hinrikus told CNBC.

"You can do business like a local person while based in Singapore," he added.

Initiated in May, the product also allows customers to convert between currencies instantaneously. The start-up is known for its e-transaction service, which allows customers to transfer money at near-real exchange rates. Using a peer-to-peer model, TransferWise pairs a currency seller with a buyer, enabling both parties to save on transaction fees.

Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder and chair of TransferWise, at the WSJDLive Global Technology Conference in Laguna Beach, California on Oct. 25, 2016.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder and chair of TransferWise, at the WSJDLive Global Technology Conference in Laguna Beach, California on Oct. 25, 2016.

However, TransferWise is not the only fintech firm offering customers peer-to-peer transaction solutions. Blockchain-based start-ups are also beginning to occupy the digital space. For example, Boston-based Circle in June launched an international online service allowing users in the U.S. and Europe to transact money to each other instantly at no cost, Reuters reported.

But as for the popular tokens using blockchain technology, Hinrikus said he did not feel threatened.

"Up until now, we really haven't seen how bitcoin or ethereum gets used by real people to buy goods, to pay for services," he said.

The chairman added that blockchain is a "powerful way of democratizing certain aspects of governments and business," and could in fact help TransferWise offer cheaper, faster and better services in the future — althought it remains too early to predict.

TransferWise is reportedly valued at about $1.6 billion, putting it firmly at "unicorn" status. It has also attracted some of Silicon Valley's biggest investors, which most recently includes Twitter-backer IVP, according to reports.