Fintech unicorn TransferWise strikes first deal with a major bank to offer cheap currency transfers

  • TransferWise announced a partnership on Monday with France's Groupe BPCE, to offer its low-cost money transfer service to the lender's customers.
  • It's the first deal TransferWise has made with a major mainstream bank.
  • The service will be integrated via the group's banking apps starting in 2019, the companies said in the announcement made at the Money 2020 Europe fintech conference.

TransferWise announced a partnership Monday with France's Groupe BPCE to offer its low-cost money transfer service to the lender's customers, marking the first integration of the U.K. start-up's product with a major bank.

The London, U.K.-headquartered firm specializes in cross-currency money transfers at a lower cost than traditional banks. The process of moving currencies around the world is typically expensive because of a large cut taken by banks and unfavorable exchange rates. But TransferWise allows users to transfer money from one currency to another with a fee of around 0.5 percent and at the mid-market exchange rate.

TransferWise has around 3 million users transferring 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) each month, and it is looking to boost its reach through the BPCE partnership. BPCE is the second-largest banking group in France. TransferWise will have access to the company's more than 15 million customers.

The service will be integrated via the group's banking apps starting in 2019, the companies said in the announcement made at the Money 2020 Europe fintech (financial technology) conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Groupe BPCE is the first major mainstream bank to partner with TransferWise which has typically been seen as a challenger to the incumbents. German start-up bank N26 and Estonia's LHV have previously partnered with TransferWise.

Transferwise founders Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann
Source: Transferwise
Transferwise founders Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann

When TransferWise launched in 2011, it's marketing heavily focused on attacking the banks and offering its product as an alternative. But recently, the company has tried to work with financial institutions, a move that could help it continue its strong growth.

In the year ending March 2017, TransferWise reported its first profitable year on an operational basis and said revenues more than doubled. The company has not reported its fiscal 2018 results yet but Chief Financial Officer Matt Briers told CNBC earlier this year that TransferWise will book another year of profit.

Kristo Kaarmann, CEO of TransferWise hailed the partnership with Groupe BPCE as a "momentous" step on the mission to make money transfers "as fast and as cheaply as email."

"The banking industry is beginning to embrace the services challengers can offer, and we look forward to more banks joining us on this journey," Kaarmann said in a statement on Monday.