Currenxie’s long road for a better cross-border payment platform
How these Goldman Sachs alumni turned a painful experience into a family business.
It was from a personal painful encounter with foreign exchange that ignited the first sparks in founder and chief executive officer Riccardo Capelvenere to start Currenxie, a Hong Kong-headquartered cross-border payments and business account services startup.
In an interview with Hong Kong Business, Riccardo recounted how his mother’s wine import business, now run by his sister, paid exorbitant sums over decades on cross-border transactions and FX when purchasing from suppliers in Italy and elsewhere. This became the sort of trigger that pushed Riccardo into a new business direction.
Banking on his experiences in quantitative and technology-driven trading, Riccardo, along with his wife Alison, founded Currenxie in 2014.
“Alison had the operational experience as a Chief Operating Officer and together we started building relationships with banking partners around the world, and acquiring payments licenses in different markets. At the same time we were developing our core technology, and by 2017 we had launched the Global Account,” Riccardo said.
And that very wine business? It became their first and longest standing client.
Laying the foundation
Currenxie is a financial services company that helps modern businesses access global commerce, by providing them with a simple solution for making and managing their payments. Essentially, it’s a modern take on the business current account, designed for today’s increasingly borderless world.
Currenxie offers its clients a single portal - the Global Account - that gives them their own virtual bank account details in every market they do business. They can receive and send fast, borderless bank payments, they have multi-currency digital wallets, and transact at very low costs.
“This is all handled on our cloud-based platform, which is an in-house core banking system for running our global network and accounts. We are fully vertically integrated, all of our technology has been developed internally,” Riccardo said.
But starting this business in 2014 wasn’t easy.
From day one, Currenxie had to painfully build its network. Riccardo said he and his wife spent the first few years flying all over the world, sometimes spending weeks away from home. Which was hard for them because they initially moved to Hong Kong back in 2013 to be closer with their family. They also drew on their experiences as former Goldman Sachs executives to create a solid business model.
“As we were one of the first fintech companies offering this kind of service in Hong Kong back in 2014, we had no benchmark. Communicating our value, and educating the market about what we had to offer, was an initial challenge. It still is, though there are other fintech companies now, and awareness is increasing. Our early clients all came through word of mouth, whereas now we have multiple channels,” Riccardo explained.
The groundwork that they did eventually paid off as they have built one of the largest virtual account networks in the B2B fintech space that spans more than 30 countries and over 18 currencies.
Recently, the company closed a Series A funding round, bagging close to US$10m ($77.89m) led by family office BF Belmont.
Currenxie plans to use the fresh funds to build new products, acquire new licenses and authorisations as well as expand to new markets and invest in more talent. The company has raised around US$14m to date.
“We are currently seeking authorisation for our business in Ireland, which will support our European expansion. We are also looking closely at expanding in another key Asian market next year. We’re also launching some exciting new products very soon,” Riccardo added.
As of now, Riccardo isn’t worried about competition in the market, as the B2B payments market is predicted to exceed US$1.9t. He said the market can afford to support many players.
“There are not that many global payments companies with our capabilities, and each brings something different to the table. A certain amount of competition and choice is healthy for the industry and drives innovation,” Riccardo said.
“That said, my team and I are 100% focused on continuing to build our business so that we become a global end-to-end financial services provider for businesses everywhere. We want to reaffirm our commitment to financial inclusion for all as we continue to strive to meet the unique needs of SMEs and enterprises through our platform and virtual account network. The next 5 years will see us re-invest in the business and develop new products, while expanding our global footprint by breaking into new markets. But the future is malleable, anything can happen between now and then and I’m fully open to whatever it may hold, ” he added.