Don’t be underbanked in the 21st century – free your financial potential

This article was first published on TechHQ.


The traditional banking sector is a conservative beast (that’s conservative with a small “c”) that, in some ways, is its own worst enemy. Old-school banks struggle with legacy IT, making them rigid in a broader, online world that embraces agility. They avoid risk to continue supporting multiple services in a wide portfolio of historical services. And while merchant banking, brokerages, and investment arms may be profitable (especially to the bank itself), it means the traditional finance house is, on the whole, slow to adopt new technology and new business models.

That leaves a broad swathe of technology-forward companies that cannot rely on traditional banking services. When a large, traditional financial institution’s stockholders move to reduce their risk in a market, many of the bank’s customers can be left high and dry without the services they need to continue to do business. In most markets, longevity of services and reliability is a key part of a company’s reputation and attractiveness to new customers. When its bank’s policy changes without warning, it affects the core of many of its customers’ businesses, ruining reputations and causing massive loss.

Freemarket. Cross-border payments and FX.

Part of what makes working with a traditional bank such a kite mark of quality is the rigorous nature of onboarding to its services. Gilt-edged KYC (know-your-customer) and KYB (know-your-business) processes go a long way in ensuring confidence in any business. Plus, a “big name” bank’s reputation helps establish a local trading presence anywhere in the world. Here too, many companies in new sectors such as gaming, rely on their bank’s local presence to move money across borders to and from their customers, reliably and swiftly.

Some sectors, however, are either refused banking services altogether or are charged such a premium that trading anywhere but domestically is impractical. In primarily digital markets, that can be a massive hindrance to growth. Whether your sector is financial services (broker or neo/challenger bank), MSB, regulated markets (gaming/gambling), crypto or e-money provider (PSP), the problems associated with the traditional banking sector can be make or break for some. Or if not terminal, a traditional bank’s policies can represent a significant strategic block on any business’s growth.

What makes a big difference to many companies that need to trade internationally is the presence of local banking facilities “on the ground” in countries to and from which monies need to move.  Typically, it’s these countries where customers are. Without an established local banking presence, businesses must rely on expensive and often slow third-party services designed in a previous era, like SWIFT. In an age where a single screen tap or mouse needs money to move in near real-time, the phrase “three business days” spells failure.

If you do your homework, you’ll find regulated and properly-vetted companies that do offer local banking capabilities all over the world, and not all are big-name banks that come with the burden of conservative shareholders. FCA-regulated Freemarket, for example, offers access to a resilient local and international banking and non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) network quickly and securely. It’s a company that offers transfers to local banking facilities transparently in dozens of countries, acting as a proxy for its customers. In short, if you commit to trading abroad, you can do so safe in the knowledge that any local changes of banking provider “on the ground” will be handled by global change Freemarket. For its customers, trading simply continues regardless of third-party decisions to withdraw services or ramp up fees, or punish customers for the lowering of a risk profile, and so on.

Freemarket. Cross-border payments and FX.

Getting onboard with Freemarket as a business isn’t a rubber-stamp exercise, as of course, it shouldn’t be. To reassure its own customers and its local banking and NBFI network members, Freemarket operates rigorous KYB onboarding, for example. Its internal processes and systems have established it worldwide as the go-to provider of international money transfer in edge-case, digital-first, and new market sectors like cryptocurrencies and online gaming. It’s built an established network of international banking and NBFI partners which it continues to expand, and it works continuously to ensure the uptime of its network – currently 99% availability. When local conditions change, its services to its customers simply continue: it’s business as usual for the end user, with no changes in fees or conditions. Once you commit to a market, you can commit long-term to customers and partners in that market.

Many of its customers operate entirely through Freemarket’s web portal, but for larger operations, there are open APIs that connect systems seamlessly. Like many of its customers, it’s a fintech company that’s first and foremost a digital entity, meaning it comes to the table without expensive legacy systems and real estate to service. That means its prices are highly competitive compared to the equivalent services in digital, transnational sectors.

In our next editorial in this series on forward-looking financial companies, we’ll consider some of the practical business benefits Freemarket’s services can bring, primary among them being the way the service allows strategic decisions to be made without having to bend to the more conservative tastes of the older, traditional banking sector. Watch this space for that, or if what you’ve read so far interests you and fits your business model reach out.




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