The Spanish bank Santander has announced that it is launching an international money transfer service that will run using blockchain technology in an attempt to take on disruptive fintech startups such as TransferWise and Revolut, who have been eating into banks’ share of a market worth an estimated $600bn per annum.
Santander’s service, called “One Pay FX”, will initially be made available in Spain, the UK, Brazil and Poland, rolling out to more countries over the coming months.
The service marks the first time that a major bank has turned to a blockchain based solution for international money transfer. One Pay FX will team up with California based Ripple, a company that Santander are invested in through its $200 million fintech venture capital fund, Innoventures, leveraging its xCurrent distributed ledger technology.
xCurrent will enable One Pay FX to help customers complete international money transfers in less than 24 hours – introducing same day or next day transfers that offer more transparency, with customers aware of all associated costs before completing the transaction.
In a press release Santander revealed that it intends to introduce new features to the One Pay FX service imminently, including instant transfers, which will make the service one of the fastest on the market. Santander’s Chief Executive Ana Botin commented:
“From today, customers in the UK can use One Pay to transfer money across Europe and to the US. In Spain, customers can transfer to UK and US, while customers in Brazil and Poland can transfer to the UK.
“Transfers to Europe can be made on the same day and we are aiming to deliver instant transfers across several markets by the summer.”
“Our goal is to help the thousands of people who use international payments services every day, and we will be adding more currencies and destinations in the coming months.
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This is a bold move from a bank that has suffered at the hands of disruptive international money transfer startups, most notably TransferWise, who intercepted a leaked document from a Santander conference last year that revealed whilst TransferWise charged just €64 to transfer £10,000 from Spain to the UK, Santander charged over 6 times more; €394.
Until recently, banks and Money Transfer Operators like Western Union have enjoyed a virtual monopoly on international money transfer, charging high transaction fees and offering uncompetitive exchange rates. The rise of new fintech technologies, however, has allowed new competitors to enter the money transfer market and undercut their prices.
Santander also revealed in the leaked document that “10% of the Group’s profit is at risk when international transfers repricing takes place”. Clearly, the bank has moved quickly to redress the balance by introducing One Pay FX. Santander says the service has been in development for more than 2 years.
Is Blockchain the long term solution for International Money Transfer?
Whilst blockchain technology is currently taking the world by storm, there are still doubts as to whether the technology can sustain high volumes of transactions and deliver the significant cost savings that customers crave.
Bank messaging service SWIFT has been vocal on the subject, claiming that “further progress is needed”, before distributed ledger technologies can be introduced as a mainstream service – although some might conclude that SWIFT sees blockchain solutions, like Ripple’s Xcurrent, as direct competition to their own business model.
Ultimately, the transparency around fees and exchange rate spreads that the blockchain engenders could be its saving grace. Customers today have all the tools at their disposal, including international money transfer comparison sites like The Money Cloud to make up their own minds about which service to use.
Brokers still best when it comes to major international money transfers?
At The Money Cloud we compare the prices, speed, and service offered by a selection of the very best international money transfer brokers and agencies. More often than not, when it comes to moving large sums of money abroad, a specialist broker, such as Tor FX, Effective FX, or Smart Currency Exchange, remains the best option.
As well as buying currencies in bulk, helping to narrow exchange rate spreads, brokers are able to provide specialist market knowledge which can help customers to adopt more sophisticated strategies, potentially saving thousands.
Before choosing a broker, use a dedicated international money transfer comparison site to narrow your search to two or three rival services, and speak to each one before making your decision.
There is certainly no harm in including Santander’s new service in your search; the jury may still be out on blockchain money transfer solutions, but with the amount the banks and other MTO are investing into distributed ledger technologies, being an early adopter of this technology could pay off over the long term.