First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
François Briod: The world’s current situation is complicated and uncertain, but I am lucky: everyone is doing well both in my private and business life. We are privileged and haven’t been affected by COVID-19. I am also incredibly grateful to all frontline workers around the world. They are taking care of our loved ones and are often migrants.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Monito
François Briod: Laurent Oberholzer, my brother Pascal and myself founded Monito to tackle the excessive costs of transferring money across borders. The three of us confronted this issue differently: Pascal and I first encountered high fees when we started sending money to Cameroon to fund the non-profit organization we created as kids. Laurent faced this problem while receiving money from his parents during his studies in Hong Kong.
Inspired and motivated by these experiences, we met in our native Switzerland with a clear goal: save the world $28 billion (per year) in excess fees and bad exchange rates.
So, together in 2013, we founded Monito, and we have been growing ever since. Our website allows users to compare international money transfer providers and choose what best suits their needs. We are a portal for money across borders that helps people find, compare, and review different ways to exchange, send, and spend money internationally.
Since we founded the company, we have received numerous awards and recognitions. We have been invited to speak at the Global Money Transfer Summit, the International Money Transfer Conference, the Transparency in the Remittances Industry Conference and the Fintech 2.0 Conference.
How does Monito innovate?
François Briod: Monito has an innovative business model that brings transparency to a historically opaque industry. We help migrants, expatriates, and travelers to find the best way to send money abroad with an easy-to-use comparison website. We do this by giving them the best information on transfer fees and exchange rates. By sharing these fees and showcasing their value proposition on Monito, money transfers providers can win new customers in a very efficient way.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
François Briod: The pandemic has worked as an acceleration of the digitalization of our industry. As it wasn’t safe (or permitted) to visit agencies, post offices, shops, or banks in person, users turned to the internet. They have now discovered cheaper, more efficient, and more convenient digital services to send money abroad, and they won’t turn back.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
François Briod: At the beginning of it all, before official measures were taken in Switzerland, we decided to stop international business trips and recommended our staff to work from home. In all honesty, we did not have much information at the time, but it sounded like the best thing to do. Looking back, I think it clearly was.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Monito in the future?
François Briod: To stop thinking 24/7 about Monito, I listen to podcasts and cycle. I enjoy these activities very much, particularly cycling along the beautiful terraced vineyards of Lavaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, if there is a problem that is especially bugging me, it’s sometimes easier to just go back to work and solve it.
Regarding Monito, I believe we’ve made great progress towards our mission. We are certainly closer to saving the world $28 billion in excessive money transfer fees paid each year, but we are not there yet. At the moment, we are working on scaling our team and resources in order to spread our message around the world. We want to let people know that there is an alternative to high money transfer fees and bad exchange rates.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
François Briod: In recent years, we’ve noticed that there are more and more competitors. That’s great for the consumers, of course, but I wish more of these companies would share the same values of transparency and independence and not just focus on short-term profits because these strategies don’t have the consumers’ interests at heart. However, competition is good as it keeps us on our toes and ensures we keep on innovating.