Exchange Currency at CurrencyFair – A Unique Marketplace Where People Buy and Sell Currencies to Other People
Brett Meyers is the managing Director and one of the four founding Directors of CurrencyFair – The Fair way to exchange currency
Expats Guide: What’s your background?
Brett: I’m Australian but I’ve been living in Ireland for the last ten years or so. The three other founding directors are from Australia, Ireland and Wales. So three of us are expats ourselves, and before CurrencyFair we were all working as bankers (sorry about that!) or in other financial services.
Expats Guide: Where did you get the idea from?
Brett: Like most expats, I had a regular need to exchange currency and was getting increasingly frustrated about the unfair charges. When I got together with other expat friends of mine, we’d all have a whinge about what a racket this was and how much we were getting fleeced. So we started to exchange currency between ourselves using the interbank rate, sending the money directly between our accounts (I’d send a mate some euros and she’d send me some aussie dollars, for example). Unfortunately I didn’t have anywhere near enough friends to ensure that I could always exchange what I needed to. It seemed to me that solving problems like this was something that the internet was very good at, and the online currency exchange marketplace idea followed from there. Fundamentally CurrencyFair is a community full of mates and mates don’t rip each other off.
Expats Guide: Can you take me through the steps from concept to launch?
Brett: The idea was a simple one, but getting it up and running was clearly going to take a lot of time and effort. Luckily I had some close friends and work colleagues that had the right mix of financial knowledge, contacts and IT skills to put something like this together. Jonathan, Sean and David agreed to come on board, and we started initially in our spare time whilst employed in other positions. We chose Dublin, Ireland for our office location and developed and tested the matching algorithm on internal systems for 6 months before commencing work on the website itself in Spring 2009. Around the same time we started the application process to be regulated by the Irish Financial Regulator. This took close to a year and ensured we have the highest possible standards for internal policies and procedures, detection of financial crime and the protection of client funds. We were launched by Ireland’s Minister for Trade and Enterprise, Mr Billy Kelleher, on May 7th in Sydney, Australia.
Expats Guide: How many currencies do you have on the site?
Brett: 12. Aussie and US Dollar, Euro, Pound Sterling and Polish Zloty are our most actively exchanged currencies. The other currencies are UAE Dirham, Canadian Dollar, Swiss Franc, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore Dollar and South African Rand. This will be growing all the time, as we’re always keen to add more currencies where there is a demand for them.
Expats Guide: How safe and secure is your site?
Brett: CurrencyFair takes security very seriously. We maintain the highest possible standards of system integrity to ensure the confidentiality of personal and transaction details. In technical terms, to allow data to be transmitted securely, CurrencyFair uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL), 128 bit encryption on required site pages. You can check that your connection is secure by looking for the https and the secure padlock symbol in your browser window.
All client money is held in segregated client accounts with our global banking provider. Client funds are never commingled with those of CurrencyFair and we cannot use them to settle any of our own obligations. Our banking provider has a market capitalization of over USD 100 billion and holds more USD 1.5 trillion of client assets.
All our customer data is held on secure servers at Data Electronics, a state-of-the-art Data Centre outside Dublin which provides for the highest available security standards.
Expats Guide: Do you absolutely guarantee the best exchange currecncy rates?
Brett: We are very confident that CurrencyFair provides the best exchange currency rates available anywhere, due to our unique marketplace model. We recommend though that you find this out for yourself! It costs nothing to check the live rates on our market, they’re available for anyone to look at on the website, and with CurrencyFair, what you see is what you get.
Be warned though that most of our competitors display the interbank rates on their currency calculators, not the rate you actually get. A few of them are even kind enough to tell you that in the small print, and ask you to call them for a real rate. Personally I find this lack of transparency pretty annoying, which I guess is another reason why we started CurrencyFair. We find that most banks charge around 2.5% to 3%, and specialist fx providers a bit less, all built into the rate of course, since everyone is ‘no commission’ these days! The best available rate on CurrencyFair is normally around 0.5% away from the interbank rate, but of course, since it’s a market, you don’t have to take that rate and can try for a better rate and wait to be matched. Many of our customers have actually exchanged at a better rate than the interbank rate, and you certainly can’t do that anywhere else!
The cost of transfers can make a big difference as well. A bank usually charges €20 to €30 for you to transfer your exchanged funds. Our charges are much lower because our accounts are held in the relevant country. A Euro transfer, for instance, is currently free and will be as little as €3.
Expats Guide: How can people trust each other?
Brett: Users can’t take a rate and then pay. THEY have to send us funds before they start to exchange currency and there are no exceptions. Everyone using the CurrencyFair Marketplace has to do this. That means there’s no hanging around while the other person (or persons) they’re going to exchange currency with gets all their ducks in a row.
So when users match an order or their order gets matched, the converted funds are ready to transfer out instantly. This has the added advantage of removing all risk. The money is already there and it’s all held in Segregated Client Accounts with our global banking partner until it gets transferred to wherever it’s needed. Our regulation by the Irish Financial Regulator also means we have the highest possible standards for internal policies and procedures and the protection of client funds
Expats Guide: What’s in it for you?
Brett: Leaving aside the good feeling about beating the banks, yes, it is a commercial venture. Our small commission is included in all the rates you see on the website.
Expats Guide: What about the humour on your site?
Brett: A bit of humour is an Australian tradition – just look at our beer adverts. We’re different, CurrencyFair is a different way to exchange currency, so why try to hide it? We really hope people like what we’re doing and want to be a part of it. Saving money by exchanging on our marketplace can actually be a bit of fun and we hope the site reflects that.
Expats Guide: Thank you Brett for the interview. I wish you best of luck with CurrencyFair.
For more information please visit CurrencyFair Website