Q1 2020 Mission Update

Kristo Käärmann

To the Wise community,

How much closer did we get to making our mission of Money Without Borders a reality in Q1 2020?

TL;DR. This has not been a regular quarter for any of us. We’ve made adjustments to keep our team safe and we've been working extra hard to make sure our service is reliable for our users.

More people than ever used us last quarter and for most users it got a little bit faster and a little bit cheaper to use Wise (as an average across our thousands of routes and payment methods). It definitely got more convenient to use in many scenarios. The real story is more nuanced, so read on to see how we made progress for you.

There are now more than 7 million people using Wise , moving over 4 billion pounds a month. That includes those of you who have made more than 50 million card transactions to date and hold more than £1bn in your Wise accounts.

Our mission is funded by this community, through your contribution of transparent fees, so we believe it’s important we share regular updates on how we’re (re)investing your money into making our services better for you to use.

An unusual quarter

I need to give a quick update on how we’re dealing with coronavirus at Wise.

This pandemic highlights that nothing in our lives is as important as our health - including money. But, more than ever, we need our money to be available in the country we need it, exactly when we need it. Reliably. Predictably.

We’re here to make sure that moving your money is one less thing you have to worry about right now. There’s no disruption to our service — you can send, spend, receive, and convert your currencies as usual.

Hopefully it won’t be long until we’re all back to living our normal lives.

Until then, stay safe and read on to find out how much closer we got to achieving our mission in Q1. Reminder, we’re trying to make money without borders: instant, convenient, transparent, and eventually free.


In Q1, 25% of transfers with Wise arrived instantly. This means money left your bank and arrived in the recipient’s bank account, in a different country, and in a different currency in less than 20 seconds.

This is up slightly from 23% last quarter. Improvements in Asia and Mexico particularly contributed to the uptick.

In the last update we mentioned a new local integration in Mexico that was still in beta. Since then, we’ve fully rolled out this instant payments experience to Mexico for all transfers up to $1000 USD. Tens of thousands of users have now sent money to Mexico in less than 20 seconds. Another couple thousand users get their money in less than a minute.

Transfers to Asia also had significant speed improvements. About 36% of transfers to Pakistan are now instant and 64% arrive within an hour. 70% of transfers to Sri Lanka used to take over 24 hours; this quarter we made 52% of transfers to Sri Lankan rupees instant and 76% now arrive within an hour.

Sending money to Thailand also got much better. About 15% of transfers to Thai baht are now instant after we integrated with a new payment network there. So far thousands of transfers every week are getting this experience.

For users sending money to Japan, this quarter we rolled out a near instant experience. Over 90% of customers sending money to Japan now receive their funds in under 60 seconds - something that used to take over 24 hours.

The cumulative effect of these improvements should be fully seen in next quarter’s mission update.

However, this quarter we had more transfers than usual on slower routes, which is what brought overall speed averages down (although no route got slower on its own).

It is now more important than ever for users to know exactly when their money will arrive. We show the estimated time of arrival within an accuracy of an hour for slower transfers and in seconds for the fastest.

We then monitor the accuracy of our estimates by measuring the actual speed of transfers versus the estimations we showed at the start of the transfer.

The share of accurate delivery estimates decreased slightly this quarter - from 73% last quarter to 71% in Q1. This wasn’t because transfers were too slow! It was caused by an increase in transfers arriving too early. We had a bug that failed to account for daylight savings and we were showing users estimates that were too pessimistic.


The average price of transfers in Q1 was 0.74%. That’s marginally down from Q4, when we improved the cost of sending to Asian countries.

On a number of routes we managed to bring fees down again this quarter and we should see the overall impact on average price in Q2.

Thanks to increased volumes on the route, we were able to drop prices for sending money to South Africa by an average of 16%, depending on the country you are sending from. For example, fees for sending ZAR from the UK dropped from £6.86 + 0.69% to £4.92 + 0.65%.

We had a number of price drops in Asia - sending money to Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines all got cheaper.

Sending money from Japan also had a 24% price drop.


Sending yuan to China with Alipay

We announced a new integration with Alipay. You can now instantly send Chinese yuan from 17 currencies to Alipay’s 1.2 billion users. It is as simple as adding in the recipient’s name and Alipay ID and the money will be transferred instantly into the bank account linked to the recipient’s Alipay profile.

Debits around the world

Last quarter, we mentioned that direct debits were live in beta across Europe and the UK. We’ve now fully rolled this feature out. This means you can now use your Wise account to pay your utilities, phone bills, and taxes in the same way as your traditional bank – only in multiple currencies.

In the US, we opened micro deposit debits in beta. This feature lets customers connect their Wise account with banks and third party services such as banks, PayPal, Venmo, Stripe, online brokers, and others. This connection is what lets users withdraw USD from these services to their Wise balance.

Paying us got easier across the UK and Europe

For customers in Switzerland we launched SOFORT as a new payment method for sending CHF. SOFORT is a real time payment method for paying merchants with a bank transfer.

Previously users in Switzerland could only pay-in via bank transfer, which was slow and inconvenient, or by card, which came with very high fees. SOFORT now brings users instant pay-in for about half the price of cards.

For users sending money to Ukraine, the only option used to be sending money to cards. Now we’ve built the ability to send money to all banks in Ukraine via IBAN.

We moved users in Belgium to our new Belgian license to ensure that Brexit would have no impact on their ability to use Wise. We will soon start serving other European customers through this license.

We also enabled Target-2 and SWIFT payments to our customers’ EUR accounts with Wise, meaning that there’s more ways to receive money to your balance than ever before. So far, we’ve seen hundreds of our customers receiving money this way each week.

We also opened up our API under Open Banking in the UK. This means that you can now connect your Wise account to other financial services and view your Wise balance and transactions in third party apps, such as bank account aggregators, accounting software, spendalytics apps, and apps like Salt Edge.

Account experience improvements

We improved our users’ ability to recover their account when they are locked out and can’t get authentication messages to their verified mobile number.

If you’ve recently moved or changed your phone number, this used to be an annoying and lengthy process that required contacting our customer support team. Already we’ve seen thousands fewer users contacting us a month since releasing this change.

We also rolled out the ability to sign in with your Apple ID. This is currently in beta on iOS and will be more widely rolled out on Android and desktop soon.

If you regularly use your debit card and would look at your transactions, you would have previously seen all transactions - including declined and cancelled transfers. We’ve tweaked that so that non-completed activities aren’t shown. You can also hide your own transactions.

You can also now filter these same activities by balance to only see transactions made in a single currency.

When you need help

It’s not easy for support teams to keep up with the growing volume of users and increasing number of features, and currency routes. Our first goal is to design the service, such that customers shouldn’t need assistance. But when you do, you should get your issue resolved quickly. We now resolve 61% of customer issues within 24 hours.

Since March, users in Japan can now get verified completely online. Previously, onboarding to Wise in Japan required waiting for snail mail to come to your home. This has been replaced by a new online process that significantly reduces the need for Japanese users to contact us and lets you verify your identity with a selfie and ID.

We also started trialling chat support for users in North America. It will be rolling out more broadly in Q2 so that customers can get the help they need this way - in addition to email and phone based support.

Improvements to onboarding speed

All users have to verify their identity before using Wise and for many that requires getting documents checked. Some documents we process automatically and others require a person to review them.

This quarter we improved our tools and hired a bigger team, so we can now review more documents, more quickly. This means we now onboard over 70% of customers in less than 24 hours.

Making the Wise account even more borderless

We’ve made some strides this quarter in making the Wise account and debit card more widely available and easier to use.

For all debit card users in Europe and the UK, we rolled out Apple Pay. Users can now add their card to Apple Pay manually and through in-app provisioning. Bye bye chip and pin, hello contactless.

If you ever need to freeze your card, doing so in the Wise app will also freeze it in Apple wallets such as your iphone or iwatch.

Users in Greece can now also get the Wise debit card. Until now, it was not available due to limitations put in place during the last financial crisis.

We also made the debit card features in the app simpler. Spending limits now renew daily and monthly. You can clearly see how much time is left until your limits renew and turn limits on and off for specific types of transactions with one toggle.

If your card is ever declined, you’ll now get more details about why your transaction was declined and what you can do about it if you want to try again.

Ordering the debit card is slow in New Zealand. Not yet ideal, but we have reduced the delivery time from 2 weeks (or more) down to 4-10 days.

It’s not all good news though. In Singapore, the government has introduced a S$5,000 cap on balances that personal users can hold outside of their bank at any time. Hopefully this will be a short-lived situation and if it improves we’ll notify users.

Lastly, the coronavirus pandemic is having an effect on delivery times for debit cards across Europe. We are monitoring the situation and updating delivery estimations as the situation evolves.

More mission, in more places

Adding new countries and currencies to the Wise community

Last quarter we launched the ability for users to send money to Botswana pula and this quarter we added Zambian kwacha - the 57th currency on Wise and the 11th African currency.

We also (re)opened sending money to Colombia. When we previously offered transfers to Colombia, the process was slow and inconvenient, often requiring cumbersome documentation from users.

With the relaunch, users get a much simpler onboarding experience and - so far - 90% of payments complete within an hour.

Expanding the ecosystem for users

Making it easier for businesses

This quarter we increased the number of businesses who get instant online verification from 14% to 18%. Creating this seamless onboarding experience came about by adding an automated checker for certain types of businesses and automating account creation for freelancers in the US and Canada.

Wise for Banks in Portugal

Activo Bank in Portugal fully integrated and launched the ability for their 300,000 customers to use Wise from within the Activo app.

Activo is a digital bank that is part of Portugal's second largest bank - Millennium BCP. So far 1,000 of their customers have already used the integration to send money abroad.

Fun fact: Activo is the first bank that has integrated Wise that has also built our comparison table into their app. This gives their users the ability to transparently compare the true cost of sending money abroad with Activo (powered by Wise) to other banks.

This trend of transparency in pricing will become the norm across the world as more users understand pricing and demand transparency from their banks.

Investing in a strong platform

Our system uptime through Q1 was 99.69% - marginally better than last quarter. Our ultimate goal is to have 99.95%+ uptime consistently for users who need to make a transfer.

We have been on a journey over the last 1.5 years to migrate our systems from a smaller dedicated hosting to Amazon’s AWS. As of Q1, 98% of the 320 services that power Wise run in AWS and all flows that move your money around the world have been migrated.

Join the (remote) revolution

This quarter we’ve gone fully remote as we all stay home to flatten the COVID-19 curve. Even though we are at home, we still have a lot of work to do and we need help.

We’re still hiring and onboarding new joiners remotely and we have 148 open roles right now, including a Group Product Manager Banking Experience, Group Product Manager Onboarding & Head of People Partnering. Check out https://wise.com/jobs to find out more.

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money without borders

Find out more

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