The success of Wise highlights London’s fintech boom – which is built on welcoming talented people

Using technology to improve financial services and create new ones is one of the hottest areas of entrepreneurship – and a really important one for the capital, writes Hamish McRae

Thursday 08 July 2021 19:22
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<p>This is a story about London’s future as a financial centre</p>

This is a story about London’s future as a financial centre

For a few years there has been a quiet message spreading among people needing to transfer money abroad. It is that you don’t go to a bank but go instead to a little company called TransferWise, where you get a much better rate. Now it just changed its name to Wise – and it is a secret no more. It has just been listed on the London Stock Exchange at a valuation of £8bn.

There are at least five stories here: first, the human one. Two Estonians living in London feel they are getting a bad rate from the banks if they send money back and forth to Estonia. Then they realise that one of them is about send some cash one way, while the other plans to send a similar sum the other. So, why not start an online operation that cut out the banks and enabled people to deal directly?

That lightbulb moment about 10 years ago means that Kristo Kaarmann and Taavet Hinrikus are now worth upwards of $2bn (£1.4bn) and $1bn respectively. This is how capitalism is supposed to work. In the words attributed to the 19th-century American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, they built a better mousetrap and the world beat a path to their door.

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