Insight & Analysis

Tapping into demand for emerging market cross-border transactions

Published: Jun 2023

iBanFirst is giving executives and finance teams in a growing number of European markets direct access to currency markets.

Recent improvements in global trade have intensified the focus on the cost of cross-border payments, with the value of such payments estimated to reach US$250trn by 2027.

The World Bank calculated last year that the average cost of sending a US$200 cross-border payment was 6% of the remittance. With the G20 setting a target of 3% by 2027 it is clear that demand for more cost-efficient payments will continue to increase. One company already benefitting from cheaper cross border payments is Belgian group Coeck Concrete.

Andy van den Vonder is CFO of Coeck Concrete, the production and distribution company founded in 1929 that manufacturers concrete products. The company (which distributes many well-known brands of building materials as well as producing concrete products and premixes) uses Brussels-based iBanFirst for its cross-border payments.

“We have been working with iBanFirst for about five years,” says van den Vonder. “One of the main advantages is the fast response time – it can take several days to get an answer from a major bank. We also know the exchange rate in real time so we know what the rate will be on each transaction.”

Other benefits for Coeck Concrete are integration with the Isabel6 multi-banking platform and access to a payment tracker.

“For example, if we have a problem with a payment to South East Asia – if a document or a stamp is missing somewhere – we can track it immediately and find a solution,” adds van den Vonder.

Since its foundation seven years ago, iBanFirst has worked with more than 7,000 firms operating internationally to help them simplify routine payment processes and save time and money on cross-border B2B payments.

The company now has 12 offices across the continent – including Paris, London and Amsterdam – and employs more than 350 people, processing in excess of €1.5bn in transactions every month.

Its highest profile move came last year with the acquisition of UK FX firm Cornhill. This deal was described at the time as being part of an aggressive M&A strategy that will see the firm spend a further €100m on business-building acquisitions.

“Our acquisition of Cornhill was a huge step in our plans for expansion and securing our position as a market leader throughout Europe,” explains Pierre-Antoine Dusoulier, Founder and CEO of iBanFirst.

“Not only did it accelerate GBP transfers – essential in a post-Brexit market – it also enabled Cornhill’s clients to benefit from our disruptive cross-border technology. GBP payments make up a significant share of total payments processed per year, so adding local UK accounts allowed us to extend our services to a wider range of customers.”

The company is not just focused on developed economies. In addition to the largest western European markets (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK), iBanFirst also has operations in eastern Europe. It opened an office in Romania in 2021, followed by Hungary and Bulgaria, where it has plans to double the volume of international payments processed this year compared to 2022.

“Central and eastern Europe’s technology ecosystem has grown rapidly in recent years and is now being recognised on a global scale,” says Dusoulier. “Factors such as a large pool of talent, government support, proximity to the leading European markets and a strong culture of entrepreneurship have made CEE an attractive space for start-ups.”

An increase in remote working opportunities is also enabling the region to retain its tech talent, rather than losing it to larger markets like France, Germany and Belgium. Many start-ups are also less capital intensive and more profit-focused than their western counterparts, making them more resilient against economic headwinds and the subsequent dip in investment and valuations.

“Central and eastern Europe hosts a large number of successful companies relevant for our cross-border business,” adds Dusoulier. “With GDP growth above the EU average and a growing interest for nearshoring, the region is quickly becoming a major hub for exchange flows and international payments.”

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