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Boom and bust

Will Kherbek
art critic
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piqer: Will Kherbek
Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Moving Money: Transferwise And The Evolution Of Digital Payment Systems

The rise of online payments took a number of the traditional interbank transfer service providers by surprise. One of the companies at the forefront has been Transferwise, and in this episode of Tearsheet, the presenter, Zack Miller, speaks to the Chief Technology Officer of Transferwise, Harsh Sinha, about the ways in which Transferwise has cultivated its status as a major disrupter of the money transfer market. 

The discussion is interesting for a number of reasons, not least as it provides a look inside the mechanics of money transfers for people who may use services like Paypal and Transferwise, but are not sure exactly where their efficiencies come from. Sinha talks Miller through the traditional methods banks employed to transfer money, for example, finding partner entities with sufficient capital and global reach to ensure that money transferred from small banks and building societies could be moved and converted with relative ease. Transferwise found a way around this tested but somewhat inefficient method by creating channels that allowed both sides of a transaction to be visible to Transferwise teams, essentially shadowing intranational bank transfers to cut down on the number of times money changed hands across borders. 

Sinha and Miller discuss attempts by SWIFT and JP Morgan to get back into the digital international transfer game after having been caught flat-footed by Transferwise and Paypal. These traditional players have decided to use the increasingly popular blockchain technology as a basis for their new systems. As a technologist, Sinha has kind words for blockchain in general, but notes that it has little obvious value for customers. The chat offers both a genealogy of online payments but also a look ahead at the ways companies like Transferwise are seeking to continue to make banking a more evenly distributed and digital practice. 

Moving Money: Transferwise And The Evolution Of Digital Payment Systems
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