An Inside Look at Wise’s Expansion Across Asia Pacific

An Inside Look at Wise’s Expansion Across Asia Pacific

by May 2, 2024

Wise has been making significant strides in the Asia Pacific region as it continues to revolutionise the way people and businesses move and manage money globally.

With a strong presence in eight Asia Pacific markets, including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia, Wise is becoming known across the global cross-border payment landscape by offering transparent, fast, and cost-effective solutions.

Founded in 2010 and launched in 2011, the former TransferWise has grown to a team of over 5,000 people representing 125 nationalities across 11 global key locations. The company’s mission-driven approach has resonated with customers, with Wise welcoming 100,000 new users each week and serving 300,000 businesses each quarter.

As of FY23, Wise boasts 10 million active customers, a 34% year-over-year increase, and moves approximately £25 billion each quarter.

Customer Demand-Driven Regional Expansion

Samarth Bansal, the General Manager of Wise Platform for the Asia Pacific region, emphasises the company’s customer-centric approach to expansion.

“We partner with banks, with fintechs, with payment service providers, even large enterprises, when there is a very clear alignment of mission,”

Samarth explains.

“When they also believe that cross-border payments should be instant, should be convenient, should be transparent and low-cost. So that’s a very clear basis for when we start conversations with partners around the world.”

An Inside Look at the Wise Expansion Across Asia Pacific

Samarth Bansal

Wise’s expansion strategy in Asia Pacific is twofold: entering new markets and expanding its product portfolio in existing markets to address customer pain points and opportunities. Already, the payments facilitator is integrated with over 85 partners globally.

In Asia Pacific, partnerships include Indonesia’s Bank Mandiri, IndusInd Bank in India, Tiger Brokers, GoTrade, Aspire, Shinhan Bank, Australian digital bank Up, Deel, Hong Kong digibank ZA Bank and Agoda.

In March 2024, Wise integrated with the PayNow network to enable tourists to make QR payments to Singaporean merchants via its app, its first such local payment system integration since its previous one with the FAST system in 2022.

At the same time, Wise Platform also collaborated with Hong Kong’s Mox to simplify international payment solutions in that area, and expanded its partnership with Tiger Brokers to introduce debit cards for their Singaporean customers.

Mike Truong, the Product Director for Asia Pacific Regional Expansion at Wise, elaborates on this approach:

“We’ll look at the market that we exist within, and we’ll see, ‘Hey, are we doing a great job in here? Is there more opportunity for us to expand our product portfolio to offer more services to the customer?’

 

Typically, we’ll start by sending money into a country, and then we’ll expand to sending money out, offering the Wise Account product, offering cards, offering Wise Business.”

Wise Asia Pacific Expansion Comes with Localisation Challenges

One of the key challenges Wise faces in the Asia Pacific region is the diverse regulatory landscape and the need for localisation. Mike highlights the complexity of the region, stating,

“Asia Pacific, because of that complexity, lags a little bit behind the other markets. Also, just in terms of its lifecycle and its growth stages, it’s a little bit in a different stage.”

He further elaborates on the localisation efforts required for each market, using Japan as an example:

“In Japan, there’s three different kinds of language sets that we have to deal with. There’s the hiragana and kanji and katakana. That alone, just the translation needs [for localisation], is significant.

 

The cultural needs also that you see in Asia Pacific, and in Asia in particular, it’s really interest-driven. A lot of things, relationships, and business relationships and product relationships are driven by trust and word of mouth.”

An Inside Look at the Wise Expansion Across Asia Pacific

Mike Truong

Despite these challenges, Wise has built a strong understanding of the region’s unique diversity, and is in the process of navigating with some success the myriad compliance and regulatory requirements across the vast region.

The company’s localisation efforts extend beyond language and cultural nuances, as it supports over 15 digital e-wallets for payments and payouts, including Alipay, WeChat, Touch ‘n Go, and GrabPay.

Fee Savings and Transparency

Mike and Samarth note how Wise’s competitive advantage lies in its transparent pricing and direct integrations with local payment schemes, enabling faster and more cost-effective transfers. On average, Wise charges 0.67% in fees, which Mike points out is significantly lower than the industry average of 3-7%.

Moreover, 61% of Wise transfers are instant, and over 90% of customers never need to contact customer support. Mike emphasises the importance of transparency in the Asia Pacific region:

“It benefits us in terms of a growth opportunity for people to have a better awareness, because we’re more transparent. But that comes from a place of that human-driven mission, the belief that Wise really has — which is this relentless pursuit of operating as efficiently as possible. So we can pass that savings on to the customer, so we can keep driving that fee down.”

Integrating Partnerships to Reduce Consumer Friction

As part of its expansion strategy, Wise Platform focuses on embedding its infrastructure into trusted platforms that consumers already use, eliminating the need for users to download a separate app or go through additional KYC processes.

Samarth explains the rationale behind this approach:

“As part of Wise Platform, what we are trying to do — and we see this as a big area of growth for us — is how do we take this infrastructure to platforms that consumers are already very comfortable using, right? So instead of downloading our apps and going through KYC, is how do we help make this infrastructure into your bank.

 

So what your bank is using is powered by Wise, is using the entire Wise infrastructure with the same conveniences, the same transparency — but does not require you to change your remittance behaviour, does not require you to download a separate app.

 

Because we understand not everyone’s going to download our app and do our KYC and go through a new flow, as opposed to taking it into platforms that they trust today.”

An Inside Look at the Wise Expansion Across Asia Pacific

Wise’s APAC expansion is reflected in the growth of its Singapore office, with a 450-strong team and key leadership figures based there.

Looking ahead, Samarth says Wise aims to deepen its presence and partnerships in the Asia Pacific region through Wise Platform. While specific details about upcoming partnerships and expansions remain confidential, the company remains committed to its mission of raising awareness about hidden fees and driving the industry towards instant, low-cost cross-border payments.

Mike drills down on the potential impact:

“If our teams based in Asia Pacific just focused on expanding our product portfolio in our existing markets, that’s a lot of work already. And a lot of impact, we can drive as well as expanding it to the markets that we’re not already in.”

Wise’s widely-used solutions, built on a strong foundation of infrastructure and regulatory compliance, position the company as a leader in the cross-border fintech and financial services space, increasingly in the Asia Pacific region.

With its customer-driven approach and relentless pursuit of driving down savings percentage points for its users, Wise looks set to continue easing the way people and businesses move and manage money globally, having saved customers £1.5 billion in fees in 2022 alone.

As Samarth succinctly puts it,

“We’ll continue pushing that awareness around hidden fees, etc. While also pushing the partners and banks that we’re working with to help provide instant cross-border payments at lower costs.

 

I think those are all amazing areas for us to get the industry in general to start moving towards.”