Why I invested in making money borderless

Richard Branson with the founders of Transferwise, Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann
Image from Transferwise
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Published on 24 April 2018

When I started out in business running Student magazine, I wasn’t thinking about international markets, but soon we had correspondents and readers all over the world. When we began Virgin Records, we quickly became an international brand, signing bands everywhere from the US to Germany, France to Finland. We soon learned that working with traditional banks to exchange currencies across different countries cost an awful lot of money and took far too long – which hasn’t changed much in the past five decades.

Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann were two friends from Estonia working in London, experiencing the same problem when sending money home. Tired of hidden charges when moving money across borders, they started TransferWise to make this process fairer. I’m a proud investor in TransferWise, one of a series of unbranded investments we have made in exciting new companies changing business for good.

TransferWise has grown from simple, fast, fair money transfer service to a global multi-currency account and debit card for people living and working in countries around the world. Now they have launched the borderless account and debit card, a multi-country banking platform to allow people to hold and convert 40 currencies at the real exchange rate, with local bank details for the UK, US, Australia and Europe. Customers can use their bank details in place of overseas bank accounts, allowing them to get paid in local currencies with no receiving fees and spend in any currency worldwide on the TransferWise debit card.

Video from TransferWise

Businesses should exist to solve frustrations. TransferWise estimates between $5-10 trillion of international money transfers are made globally each year, with Capital Economics calculating that UK consumers and businesses lose around £5.6bn in hidden exchange rate mark-ups on foreign currency annually.

This borderless account will help people who travel, live and work internationally, whether entrepreneurs, freelancers, students or people living between two countries, to pay and get paid more simply, wherever they are, whatever they’re doing. As a very frequent traveler, I can see how transformative this freedom could be for many people.

Richard Branson with Transferwise founders Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann
Image from Transferwise

I’ve spent my career tackling the status quo and the Virgin brand tries to turn out of touch industries into businesses that help consumers. We’re doing that in financial services with our challenger bank Virgin Money. Transferwise are approaching this from another angle, helping people to do business without borders. In our increasingly interconnected world, that is exciting to me. Head over to Transferwise to find out more.