International travelers find it quite difficult to get currency exchanged. Many countries only accept US dollars (USD), and it can be a costly hassle to exchange remaining local currency back into USD. So even the most experienced traveler, for instance international workers or International students and migrants, struggle with money exchange and transfer. Seeing this problem first hand, Denson Xu, Founder and CEO of BANEKS, set out to develop a smart and secure solution for currency exchange that is the answer to traveller’s currency exchange woes.
“Before I was assigned as the CEO of ZTE’s Canadian company in 2012, my job was to develop international business for that telecommunication giant. I used to travel very frequently, more than 300 days a year, to over 50 countries for years,” explains Denson. “After my travels, I always seemed to end up with small amounts of local currency left in my pocket.”
After Denson moved to Canada, he found that many people would resort to exchanging money with strangers. He saw this practice first hand in his own Chinese community. Says Denson: “There is a $50,000 USD annual limit for every individual to send/receive money to/from China, which makes it more inconvenient for people to move the money. But at the same time the unsecured and unregulated nature of peer to peer transactions left people vulnerable to fraudulent and criminal activity. I wanted to build a secure platform that had all the flexibility of peer-to-peer transaction but without the risk of fraud and money laundering. That is why I quit my job in 2018 and founded BANEKS.”
A Remittance Market Ripe for Disruption
Banks and money transfer offices (MTOs) (like West Union) have traditionally dominated the money transfer domain. But for inspiration, Denson looked to his experience in the telecommunications world. “At one time the international long distance call service was super expensive and dominated by a few players,” he says, “Then Skype came into the market, and more and more technology companies began disrupting the status quo and eventually international long distance call service became free. I believe the remittance industry is one of the next industries ripe for disruption by FinTechs like BANEKS in the coming years.”
Denson realizes that building a strong brand around BANEKS means winning a customer’s trust. That means finding the right customer segment and solving their problem reliably. “We do not have the deep pocket to invest millions of dollars to build our brand name. It took us a long time to find the right segment to break through and get our first customers. However, with more and more customers using our product all the time, we’re building strong word of mouth and reputation. This means our customer base is growing very fast without an expensive ad spend.”
BANEKS enables its customers to have a multi-currency digital wallet so that they can easily transfer money between their home country and country of residence. Just as Alipay and Wechat are renowned in China, BANEKS help users in North America instantly send money or collect money directly to/from their Alipay and Wechat account. It is a transfer method that traditional financial institutions cannot provide. .
An easier way to manage the international flow of money
Rather than relying on SWIFT system or local payment rails, the BANEKS team relies on people to power its money transfer business model. As a peer-to-peer transaction facility provider, BANEKS brings an Uber-like experience to money transfer, which means one group of customers, called Fetta, offers up liquidity as well as fast service for other customers. Fetta works just like a mobile ATM. Customers can both deposit and withdraw money as and when they desire. The higher the number of customers, the more efficient the BANEKS platform will be.
The company got its early traction focusing on niche markets.
Says Denson “We began with exotic currency pairs, because customers in that market are underserved and the competition from traditional banks and MTOs is small. And we worked hard to provide the best customer experience to meet their day-to-day needs.”
BANEKS has created an easier way for people to purchase product in their home country and even send/receive money to/from their friends and family in their home country without any hassle.
Says Denson, “Our vision is to make the money transfer borderless. People can freely and instantly move their money between home country and their country of residence, like as if they are doing a domestic financial transfer. The world is getting smaller. More and more people live, work, or study in other countries and we need to offer them easier ways to manage the financial flow of money.”
Balancing between the CEO and Home Roles
For Denson, leaving his corporate career and transforming his whole life by becoming an entrepreneur has not been easy. But it has been an enjoyable journey. He adds, “I am very proud that I have successfully built our venture from 0 to 1, and that I’ve gained the trust of more than 20K customers in just over a year. Whenever I received encouragement and appreciation from my customers, I realized I am doing something valuable and meaningful for the community. All my efforts will be paid back.”
Denson feels that, as the CEO of a startup, he’s not just the Chief Executive Officer. He’s the Chief Everything Officer. “I am not only responsible for the vision and strategy of the company, but I have to get my hands dirty. I am involved in product, design, marketing, operation, financing, business development, you name it. But every piece of positive feedback from customers, and every achievement motivates my team and I to keep going.”
The future of BANEKS is borderless
Denson firmly believes that the future of financial transactions is borderless. While he’s initially focused on expanding within the Chinese community, he intends to slowly spread BANEKS’ wings to Indian, Philippine, Mexican, Russian, Vietnamese and other communities where the largest number of international students, workers and migrants reside. He shares, “Our plan is to become a global company. We began in Canada, but our plan is to expand to US, UK, Europe, Australia, and other OECD countries where is the popular destination for international students, workers and migrants.”