by Jabu Henson, Chief Operating Officer, World First
World First is the UK’s fastest growing foreign exchange broker, offering private individuals and companies excellent service and highly competitive foreign currency exchange rates. Based in London, it was founded in 2004 and has since worked with over 20,000 private clients and 3,000 companies. In 2008, the company’s foreign exchange transaction volume was over £1bn. In April 2009, World First was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for International Trade. It won the award for offering its customers exceptional exchange rates, service and innovative products which have seen its overseas earnings increase six-fold over the last three years.
World First was founded to provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and private individuals with a personalised and responsive foreign exchange (FX) service, compared with the major banks which do not have the infrastructure to provide such a service to smaller clients. Another advantage of World First’s service is competitive pricing compared with the major banks. Whereas SMEs and private individuals can typically expect to see a 1-4% spread on market rates from banks and FX providers, we have been able to reduce this substantially. As a result, we have seen rapid growth over the past five years, growing from three to 72 staff and exponential expansion in trade volumes; for example, our payment volume has increased by 400% over two years. We can provide FX services in most tradable currencies, and provide both ad hoc and regular transactions to our clients.
While our payment volumes were still small, it was straightforward for our payments team to fax payment instructions or input them into our banks’ online payment systems. However, as our volumes have increased, we wanted to implement a more reliable solution to avoid the risk of error and enhance our operational efficiency. We have built a highly functional and automated back-office system for transaction processing, but we needed to extend our straight-through processing (STP) through our banking communications.
Consequently, we approached our banks to discuss SWIFT for corporates. We felt that SWIFT was the only option for us, as although there are multi-bank solutions for domestic or regional payments, we wanted a solution which would work for us globally. Our primary banks, Barclays and Citi, were very supportive. We needed a service bureau through which to connect to SWIFT, and considered three alternatives. We selected SMA Financial based on their close relationship with Barclays, competitive pricing and the quality of service. The relationship with Barclays was an important consideration; the implementation team from Barclays and SMA were very experienced and had worked together in the past so they managed the process well.