INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Our dual business model has helped us remain flexible and accommodate new trends in the industry says Wirex CEO Pavel Matveev
First of all, how are you and your Family doing in these COVID-19 Times?
Pavel Matveev: Everyone in my family is safe. As a result of WHO advice, my family and the rest of the 200-strong team at Wirex have been working from home for the past few months and making the most out of the situation. It’s great to see that the number of COVID cases is starting to stabilise, and I hope that we can soon return to normality.
Tell us about you, your Career, how you Founded Wirex
Pavel Matveev: I’m the CEO and co-founder of Wirex. I have 15 years of experience in software development and IT management from my previous work at Barclays Capital, Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas, and Credit Suisse. I primarily helped banks build trading platforms and algo-trading strategies, but had always dreamed of building a tech company.
When Bitcoin first came out, I didn’t invest in it straight away, but it piqued his interest a little while later at around the time that it was trading at $200. The potential impact of cryptocurrency and its technology on the economy, culture, and banking fascinated him. Due to its complexity, Bitcoin was not easily accessible to the mass market – you had to install different wallets, download the blockchain, and check if it worked or not. It was a great time, though I knew it was something I wanted to explore further!
Dmitry Lazarichev (co-founder and CEO) and I founded Wirex in 2014, after identifying the need for a simple answer to the often-confusing world of cryptocurrencies. To make digital money more accessible to everyone, they developed a mobile payment platform that allows customers to buy, store, exchange, and spend digital and traditional currencies. I’m responsible for the high-level functioning and growth of Wirex, with a specific focus on new product development and platform evolution.
I am often seen as a leading figure in the arena of mass adoption for cryptocurrencies and is a highly sought-after speaker at blockchain and payment conferences worldwide. He has published numerous articles in key international publications and spoken at various blockchain and payment conferences worldwide, including Money 20/20 Europe, The Pay Expo, Shift Money, and Finsum Japan on topics including cryptocurrency, fintech, business, and the economy.
How does Wirex Innovate?
Pavel Matveev: As we move towards a cashless society, Wirex aims to support and promote the adoption of digital currencies and to provide a low-cost, efficient, and secure transactional environment for individuals. We have produced a series of world’s firsts. We are proud to say that Wirex was the first company in the world to issue a contactless Wirex debit card. This has given our users the ability to seamlessly convert and spend cryptocurrencies in day-to-day life, at more than 54 million outlets where Visa is accepted, to purchase everything from a loaf of bread to a bill at their favorite restaurant. We were also the first company to develop Cryptoback™, a rewards system giving users up to 1.5% in bitcoin for every purchase made in-store. More recently, only last month, we were named Mastercard’s first crypto-native principal member, a great achievement and benchmark for crypto and fintech companies alike.
Wirex has gone from strength to strength, and both the company and its product have changed and continue to innovate to accommodate industry trends, regulatory requirements, and market demand. A few months ago, we celebrated reaching 3 million registered customers on our platform and reaching profitability as a company. Spread across more than 130 countries around the globe, with transaction volumes exceeding $3 billion. Our users continue to recognise the benefits of managing both crypto and fiat currencies on one, centralised mobile app. Our success shows that we’ve made huge progress in democratising access to cryptocurrencies, by removing key barriers to usage and pushing the world ever closer to mass adoption.
How the Coronavirus Pandemic affects your Business, and how are you coping?
Pavel Matveev: Despite these difficult times, Wirex is one of the companies who are here to stay, as we continue to serve our customers throughout the incipient financial crisis. Complying with government and WHO guidelines on self-isolation, our 200-strong team works diligently from their homes in London, Singapore, Kiev, Tokyo, Toronto, Dallas, and Atlanta to ensure the platform continues to operate as usual.
At a time when digital payments are increasingly pertinent, and businesses are moving to operate solely online, our entirely cashless and contactless payments system enables funds to be transferred worldwide quickly and securely, allowing people to experience the future of finance today.
The Wirex business model was built to withstand situations like this. Already profitable, we are growing fast but sensibly for both users and investors. Many other fintech businesses are not set up in the same way and will, unfortunately, take a hit during times of crisis. By highlighting the need for a new way of thinking about money that can withstand these situations, Wirex is paving the way for a dramatic shift in the fintech and wider finance industry.
Did you have to make Difficult Choices, and what are the Lessons Learned?
Pavel Matveev: The impacts of COVID highlighted the importance of a flexible business model, which we had to adapt. Businesses across all sectors of the economy have been affected by the virus in one way or another. Despite the clear advantages of businesses having an online presence and digital payments infrastructure that were already mentioned, many fintech companies are still struggling for survival.
With a change in consumer spending behavior, it has become clear that businesses focused on a single product are suffering. Although this kind of business model is typically advantageous given that it is easier to operate and more attractive to investors, to survive the uncertainty, these businesses need to be both sustainable (revenue-generating) and versatile.
Wirex is trying to turn this challenge into an opportunity. Wirex has a dual business model that remains flexible to accommodate industry trends, regulatory requirements, and market demand, whilst withstanding any market fluctuations or downturns. Our versatility is proven by the fact that although our standard business model offering traditional banking may be seeing a decline in activity and revenue recently, we have seen considerable growth in the digital side of our business with cryptocurrency.
How do you deal with Stress and Anxiety? How do you Project yourself and your company in the Future?
Pavel Matveev: The COVID situation was difficult for everyone, and forced businesses across the globe to compromise and adapt where possible to make the most of the situation. Our team of 200 were all forced to work from home, as per WHO guidelines, but it forced us to make the most of the resources we had, and adapt our business model.
With a real-use case provided for the mass adoption of a digital economy, and thus highlighting the added value that a product like ours gives, we see the second half of this year to be even more successful for us.
As we continue to develop our product in-line with market developments and provide creative solutions to consumers’ everyday financial issues, we already have extensive plans for growth. The acquisition of an Financial Conduct Authority e-money licence in 2018 opened new paths for development. The licence gives us the freedom to optimise our e-money offering which has led to lower costs and fees for our users. Meeting the criteria for an FCA e-money licence was just the first part of creating a much broader, value-added offering, which will more effectively cater to our customers’ needs.
We’re constantly looking to expand and are currently in the process of obtaining licences in Singapore and Japan. Following successful operations across Europe and Asia, we’re excited to say that we will be entering the US market in the coming months. Experienced payments executive, Harold Montgomery lead the expansion. Having led 6 other payment companies through high-growth experiences, he is committed to ensuring customers experience the same ease-of-use and benefits that customers around the world already have access to.
With several hundred thousand people already on the waiting list, we expect a strong launch in the US and will initiate a full roll-out of exciting new features throughout the rest of the year.
This is only one of many product updates and exciting announcements that we have planned in the coming months. We endeavor to scale-up our company, provide a revolutionary product, and offer cheaper, faster, and safer payments for our customers.
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the Game?
Pavel Matveev: Wirex is empowering everyone to enjoy the advantages of a world where all currencies (digital and fiat) are equal, meaning that we are endeavoring to target both core-crypto enthusiasts who are looking for a smooth on-boarding and off-boarding solution to utilise their cryptocurrency assets, as well as mainstream fintech fans, who are looking for an alternative to traditional methods of payment and money management. Traditional banks tend to offer high fees, slow payments, and poor user experience, so we are attempting to solve this problem by providing a user-friendly platform, where you can hold and spend multiple currencies.
Our main competitors are Revolut and Crypto.com:
- Revolut, since they are a mainstream fintech brand with a great user experience that rivals traditional banks, and are seeking growth by widening their proposition to niche segments like offering a digital asset wallet.
- Crypto.com is our competitor in terms of its core-crypto user-base, with a robust crypto-focused brand and aggressive global expansion.
We are attempting to differentiate ourselves by offering a single platform that appeals to both these target groups and makes cryptocurrency accessible to the masses. We offer the Wirex Visa card, the world’s first contactless payment card that gives users the ability to seamlessly convert and spend cryptocurrencies in day-to-day life, at more than 54 million outlets where Visa is accepted. We also offer Cryptoback™, which was also the world’s first cryptocurrency rewards programme, giving customers that use their contactless card with up to 1.5% rewards back in Bitcoin, which is automatically topped up to their Wirex account on their mobile.
Finally, we also created our native token, the Wirex Token (WXT), that can be purchased within the app. We have developed a strategy that will automatically detect and reward owners. Those holding different volumes of WXT will be entitled to receive a higher percentage of Cryptoback™ rewards, making our customers and WXT-holders feel valued to be part of the Wirex community.
Your Final Thoughts
Pavel Matveev: We have a lot of exciting announcements coming up, so keep your eyes peeled. Wirex has ambitious plans to grow as the market develops. This involves ensuring we continue to build on our existing product to ensure that it remains the next generation of payments infrastructure and digital payments. We want to ensure that the functionality will benefit our customers and make it even easier and cheaper for consumers to utilise digital currencies and bring them into everyday life. At the same time, the market is becoming increasingly saturated, meaning we are endeavoring to remain on top of our competitors, to prove why Wirex is truly a leading payments platform.
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