We talked to Benjamin Wong, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, TranSwap about simplifying global finance and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Benjamin Wong: Thank you for asking. My family and I are doing well. Before Covid-19, I would actually shuttle back and forth between Singapore and Hong Kong, not only to run TranSwap (we have an office there) but to visit my wife and younger daughter. However, because of travel restrictions, my family of four – I have another older daughter – video call every now and then.
We look forward to reuniting as a family, but until then, it is important to stay safe and protect ourselves and our loved ones by practising good hygiene and social distancing.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded TranSwap.
Benjamin Wong: I am the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of TranSwap. We provide financial solutions that empower business growth, from payments to collections, conversions and multi-currency accounts, helping businesses transcend borders and unlock the possibilities of tomorrow.
The idea behind TranSwap first came to me during the Asian Financial Crisis back in 1997 when I had a US$ currency exposure, and I wanted to hedge it with an FX forward contract. However, the premium quoted was too expensive, and the spread for the spot rate was huge. Fortunately, I had a friend overseas who has US$ and required his S$. We then agreed to swap our respective currencies at an agreed mid-market rate. This simple FX swapping exercise eventually gave birth to the idea of FX swapping, making cross-border payments more affordable.
In recent years, as fintech became a reality and received wide acceptance by the regulatory authorities, this reignited my passion for solving the foreign-exchange problems that I, like many other SMEs, faced, such as high costs and lack of transparency in the transaction process. Thus, I took the leap of faith and left my corporate job to start TranSwap together with Kien Leong, the co-founder and Chief Legal Officer.
How does TranSwap innovate?
Benjamin Wong: TranSwap was previously known as a cross-border payments platform only, but we have since evolved through the years to provide a wider suite of financial solutions. Ranging from global payments to collections and conversions and account, we help businesses streamline their financial processes and, more importantly, break into new markets and engage globally. Our new CALISTA TranSwap Pay service, which was launched in 2020 and added to the CALISTA Finance module on the CALISTA global trade platform, is able to digitalize and facilitate global payments to more than 180 currencies in over 120 countries for quick cargo clearance and shipment fulfilment. It also enables global collections from 57 countries and 38 currencies by allowing businesses to collect and pay in local currency while avoiding unnecessary conversion fees.
At TranSwap, we have always prided ourselves on empowering individuals and businesses by helping them simplify global finance. We are continuously innovating our processes and solutions to continue meeting our clients’ needs and demands.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Benjamin Wong: I believe the pandemic has resulted in a significant shift towards online payments as they offer a range of benefits such as faster processing speed and automation of fund transfers. Thus, there is an uptick in the adoption of online transactions among businesses – likewise with individuals as online payments address their needs, including emergency payments. That being said, we are witnessing an increasing number of businesses using our platform for payments and collections. We have achieved a 100% increase from 2019 to 2020 and expect to grow over 500% this year, 2020/2021.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Benjamin Wong: Despite the profound impact the pandemic has had on our lives and businesses around the world, the team has stayed resilient during these challenging times and remained committed to our mission of empowering global business growth by providing a secure, cost-effective and convenient cross-border payment solution. We have quite a number of exciting plans in the pipeline; in fact, the team achieved a milestone earlier this year as TranSwap officially launched in the United Kingdom, making it the fifth market after Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia. While others built shelter, we built windmills. We did not waste a good crisis.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Benjamin Wong: We leverage customer relationship management software, such as Hubspot, to centralize our customer data, analytic and deploy our customer relationship staff to give a personal touch.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Benjamin Wong: TranSwap received a number of grants in 2020: Career Support Programme, AMTD Solidary Funds, MAS-SFA-AMTD FINTECH SOLIDARITY GRANT BUSINESS SUSTENANCE GRANT, Productivity Solutions Grant, and Market Readiness Assistance Grant for expanding to Malaysia and the UK.
Your final thoughts?
Benjamin Wong: While the pandemic has had a profound impact on all of us and it is indeed challenging times, I believe it is also an opportunity for this generation; to thrive in this new ‘norm’ by adapting to new business models and focusing on trends and growth opportunities.
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