Sorry Banks, But Millennials Love TransferWise

by Tanya September 09, 2014

Disclosure: I am Estonian and very proud!

Like many other successful start-ups (Mint, Skype, Airbnb) TransferWise started with the personal but very frustrating problem for all of us – how to send and receive money across the borders without loosing it along the way.

This is how it all started …

Co-founders Taavet Hinrikus and his friend Kristo Käärmann were expats in London. Taavet worked for Skype in Estonia so he was paid in euros, but he lived in London and his expenses were in pounds. Kristo, on the other hand, worked in London and was paid in pounds, but had a mortgage in euros back in Estonia.

With the resulting opposite currency requirements, they started exchanging money between themselves. This worked out well – it was convenient and they could avoid the hefty five percent bank transfer fees that they would invariably have to pay per transaction. Every month, Taavet would deposit euros into Kristo’s Estonian account, and Kristo in return would put pounds into Taavet’s British account.

They soon realized that there must be more people experiencing the same problems, so why not trade currencies and save people the hefty transfer fees charged by most banks?

The TransferWise USP was born: cut out the middle man, offer a cut price service and build a “low margin, high volume business” and make millions from the vast volumes of customers logging on and away from the banks. 


TransferWise solves real people’s real problems turning a very traditional industry (banking) upside down.

There’s certainly an element of taking from the rich to give back to the poor. TransferWise
have effectively done to money transfer what Skype did to calls. It created opportunities the world didn’t know existed!

The secret of almost every start-up success is putting your customers first! Be a servant first and the rewards will follow …

TransferWise Millennial appeal

“As consumers, Millennials have been slow to accumulate wealth. They have huge debt. They’re facing unprecedented underemployment. They’ve been relatively unaddressed as a generation by banks. All of a sudden, you see purchasing power by Millennials growing to over $1.3 trillion,” Scratch executive vice president Ross Martin told Fast Company.

As a result, this digital-savvy cohort is looking to the tech sector to provide banking solutions.

When Scratch polled 10,000 Millennials to find out which industry was most prime for disruption, the results were clear: Not only did banks make up four of their top 10 most hated brands, but millennials increasingly viewed these financial institutions as irrelevant.

TransferWise is the perfect workplace

Today’s young people have the drive to contribute, not just work.

Growing up in this constantly changing world has produced a generation of rapid learners. Our ability to adapt is our greatest asset. It is also the single most necessary characteristic for succeeding in a startup!

Startups require employees to work independently, create innovative solutions and produce an immediate impact – exactly what Millenials want.

They’re motivated more by mission than money – young adults at the beginning of their careers these days want to know they’re part of a company or organization that stands for something bigger than just money.

Sure, a corporate gig might initially pay more than a start-up, but there are real career-defining reasons to still choose a start-up.

You’ll have more responsibility

Working at a startup probably means you’re a part of a smaller team. Because of it, there is not many people with the same skillset as you, or think the same way you do.

This will push you to be more versatile, more reliable, and more productive than in any corporate jobs or any time during school.

At a bigger company you don’t have an entire company rely on the work that you do. And that’s an empowering place to be for every Millennial.

You’ll be given more opportunities to do lots of different things

Working at a startup offers a great reward: an incentive-based system that isn’t based on dollars, but rather in skills attained and opportunities seized.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from peers who have entered into a more-structured, corporate position is that they are generally stuck with their main task and don’t get to branch out into other areas.

Whether it’s writing, designing or any other task, it’s usually a one-person-fits-one-task kind of position.

Looking back on my own startup experiences in the past I’ve lost track of all the different tasks that I’ve been able to take part in (from things like link-analysis to keyword research and video editing – I’ve done it all).

You will learn from true innovators

Entrepreneurs are defined by seeing a problem and thinking of an innovative and original way of addressing it. Because of this innovative nature, entrepreneurs are some of the best people to learn from.

They approach problems differently, are constantly finding solutions, and are driven to make the most out of their time and work.

Innovation is more than creativity. It’s action and reaction, solving problems in a new, enlightening way. Every successful startup has true innovators, and if you find the right ones, you’ll learn a lot.

You’ll work in an awesome environment

Happiest places to work are the ones that encourage autonomy and flexibility.

Here are some insights into TransferWise culture:

  • Family atmosphere that feels more like home than work
  • Casual dress code and no strict rules (such as no headphones policy etc)
  • Everyone else who works at TransferWise has the same drive and excitement for creation as you do. All around you, people are coming up with innovative solutions to age-old problems or making that new tool that simplifies or enhances your life in some way.
  • Cool perks: company holidays, team lunches, share options, sauna in the office and sexy laptop of your choice.

Millennials and freelancing

We are generation obsessed with travelling as much as possible, living abroad and working for multiple international clients around the world from our own homes! It is about time for borderless, cheap and transparent payments to go big. Unfortunately, backwards banks won’t be able to provide that to us.

If you want to loose as little money as possible when getting paid from your international clients, TransferWise is by far the best platform out there. Do check their new feature GetPaid (also, it’s tax deductible).

Irish freelance writer Susan Connolly wrote an eye-opening article “How to Avoid Losing Money When Freelancing for International Clients” and save you more than £10 for every £100 you earn. She easily brakes down all the costs between banks, PayPal and TransferWise and you can see exactly how much money will you get after all deductions. Worth a look if you are an aspiring or a current freelancer!

Only because PayPal is more known (just yet), doesn’t mean it’s the best. In fact, on some occasions PayPal charges even more than banks (see Susan’s post above).

To conclude …

Millennials want to work at a company that is doing good, not just well. What used to be considered charitable side projects are now becoming one of the strongest recruiting and retention tools.

At TransferWise Millennials find happiness in being part of a team that is trying to make other people’s lives easier, more fun, and more manageable. Your entire life will take on a meaning of creation, and you’ll be more energized, both physically and mentally.

Thank you, Taavet and Kristo!

Send my first TransferWise payment

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The first Millennial blogger in the UK. Twitter @_luckyattitude

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