An ambitious new service is seeking to change the face of the international money transfer industry – in a way that favours the needs of expats from developing countries.
With an initial strong focus on money transfers from the UK, Australia and New Zealand to developing destinations like India and the Philippines, OrbitRemit aims to significantly lower the cost for expats from the developing world to send money home.
As it stands, major banks and money transfer companies often take up to 10% of money being remitted back to developing nations such as India, Vietnam and the Philippines. Many families in these and other developing countries are highly dependent on these remittance payments for survival. OrbitRemit aims to tilt the balance in favour of families in need by offering transfer fees of as little as one or two percent of the total transaction.
We asked OrbitRemit founder Tommy Heptinstall to answer a few questions about the vision and goals behind OrbitRemit.
What's the 'Big Idea' Behind OrbitRemit?
The global remittance sector is huge. The World Bank estimates that close to $500 billion was sent to developing countries last year. The sad reality is that of that $500 billion somewhere close to 10% is lost in unnecessary fees and poor exchange rates. We want to help to reduce the costs involved for people sending money - which they have worked hard to save - back to their families.
The traditional players in the market, the retail banks and the likes of Western Union, are encumbered with huge retail costs and investments in real estate. These costs are passed on to customers in the shape of exorbitant fees and ‘high street’ exchange rates. We view this traditional business model as outdated in the same way that book stores, music stores etc. with high fixed costs have become obsolete. By offering a completely online service we can hugely reduce costs and pass on these savings to our rapidly growing customer base.
We entered the money transfer market about four years ago after having experienced first-hand the difficulties in making what should be simple international payments through the banks. I was in the process of moving to the UK at the time and held accounts in both countries and could not believe the amount of time it took to move the funds and the costs involved. It made sense that there should be space for an intermediary to get involved and remove some of the complexity that the banks seemed to insist on bringing to the transaction. Couple with that the view that I shared with some of the other directors about this being an industry that must surely migrate online to provide the efficiencies that a purely digital solution would offer.
What's Different About OrbitRemit?
We are by no means the biggest player in the marketplace – far from it – and we actually view this as a strength. We pride ourselves on being available to our customers around the clock. Having support staff in two hemispheres means we can respond to any support queries extremely quickly. If a customer has dealt with one of our support staff we assign them to future queries, where possible, so customers can have a much more personalised service. We appreciate when you are dealing with people’s money that support through the process is critical.
We have built our system from the ground up so we know the things that make a difference to our customers. We treat all payments as urgent as we understand the nature of the movement of such funds and always strive to exceed customer expectations on turnaround times. We cannot comprehend that banks can take so long to move money from one place to another - a week typically, often longer than that.
How Are You Helping Expats and Their Families?
Our customers love our service and are loyal to us. You just need to take a look at our Trustpilot page to see some of the emotive feedback we have had from our customers who thank us for making a difference. One of the most frequent comments we get is that customers wish they had found us years ago as they are upset at the amount of money they have thrown away by using the traditional players.
Having operated for over four years we know the motivations behind our customer’s payments, often they are for living expenses, medical expenses and other scenarios that may arise unforeseen and are hence urgent. We get the money to where it is needed most in the shortest possible time, and this takes some of the worry out of what can be high stress situations. At the end of the day it's about understanding the people we're serving on a human level and doing everything we can to give them exactly what they need.
How Much Do Transfers Cost?
Typically the cost of payments can be as low as 0.5% of the value being sent, subject to the destination country. This factors in all fees associated with the transfer. Unlike banks we guarantee all payments will not incur a receiving fee, which gives our customers further peace of mind as they know the exact amount their beneficiaries will receive. We see transparency as key in all transfers.
We are amongst the cheapest in the market place. Our fees from New Zealand and Australia, to India, are between $4.00 and $8.00 while the same transfer from the UK will cost only £1.99. These fees are fixed regardless of the value being sent. Some other companies charge tiered fees that increase based on the amount being sent, which again adds up to a significant percentage of the funds transferred. For larger value payments we actually offer a zero fee structure.
Any Plans for Further Expansion?
We are constantly adding to our product offering by adding new payment destinations and forging new deals that allow us to offer better exchange rates and fees. We aim, by the end of the year, to offer a truly global service at the lowest cost to customers. We are soon to add payments to the United States from New Zealand, Australia and the UK. We will initially offer these payments with zero fees.
We are also in the process of developing a more comprehensive mobile app that will build on the functionality we already offer that allows customers to make international payments straight from their mobile phones. We are also looking at some interesting integrations with Facebook.
OrbitRemit is a groundbreaking service offering fixed-rate, low-fee international money transfers with fair exchange rates. OrbitRemit helps customers get more of their more to its intended destination.