When Flywire rebranded four months ago away from its peerTransfer name, the company made its cross-border payments ambitions crystal clear: Its payments platform would serve a new category of consumer — the global citizen of the world.
Different from the global consumer, who shops retailers anywhere in the world, the global citizen invests globally — outside of their domestic market — in education for their children, in medical care for themselves and their families and in a variety of other things that bring diversity to their experiences, culture and even physical assets.
Today (Jan. 20), Flywire announces a move that will strengthen that mission further for a priority critical to these global citizens — educating their children.
Flywire will acquire Toronto-based ScholarFX, a processor of tuition and room and board payments for international students attending university or prep school in Canada. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, over 330,000 international students attended college in Canada. This news follows on the heels of Flywire’s acquisition of U.K.-based Uni-Pay in Oct. 2015.
Now, with the acquisition of two-year-old ScholarFX, the company has grown its global college and university footprint to nearly 900 served in the U.S., Europe and Asia, with students making payments from 200 countries.
ScholarFX will become part of Flywire Canada, also based in Toronto.
“The acquisition of ScholarFX expands our ability to attract and service Canadian educational institutions, while adding to the scale of our industry-leading cross-border payment platform,” said Mike Massaro, CEO of Flywire. “ScholarFX has a great understanding of the Canadian market, and their personalized, customer-centric approach to service is perfectly aligned with ours. We’re also excited to add Darren Chadwick to our team and to bring all the advantages of our solution to this fast-growing market.”
In an interview with MPD CEO Karen Webster, Rob Rosenblatt, Flywire’s chief customer officer, explained that ScholarFX is a “smaller but extremely nimble processor of international tuition,” which is also very well-respected. That alone gave Flywire the motivation for the acquisition.
But the real value? Getting more boots on the ground, he says.
Having the connections and reputation in the academic community is critical, Rosenblatt emphasizes, particularly when the “ask” is for students and institutions to rely on a specific platform to handle some of their most important payments. Flywire’s platform enables a completely transparent process that allows a student living in one country to eliminate the hassle of paying her tuition to a school in another, using her preferred payments method and leveraging Flywire’s competitive FX conversion rates and multilingual 24/7 support and tracking. Educational institutions are able to leverage Flywire’s payment reconciliation, tools, global account servicing and digital tracking.
Monopolizing on new opportunities, getting more “boots on the ground” and finding key partnerships is something Rosenblatt said has driven Flywire’s recent momentum. This year alone, Flywire is on track to process $2 billion in tuition and room and board payments in the academic year ending spring 2016, double 2015’s volume.
Also contributing to that success is Flywire’s ability to understand local markets and to bake the local knowledge into its platform and products. According to Rosenblatt, a payments industry veteran, a big piece of that is to bring more transparency to the payments process.
“A currency exchange is anything but transparent,” Rosenblatt said. “It’s very misunderstood, and it’s often a nightmare for both the buyer and the seller. That’s particulary problematic when you are dealing with a payment that’s both important but also very large ticket.”
That’s where Rosenblatt believes that Flywire’s platform and model has a bit of an edge.
“There’s a need for something that’s easy to use for both the payer, as well as the institution — transparency and experience that is digital that provides great service,” he said. “There are savings for the payer and on the receiver. It alleviates the burden of tracking and reconciling these payments.”
Before services like Flywire were on the market, students often had to bring large amounts of cash in suitcases into the country. Other times, it meant being forced to leverage traditional, but costly, bank transfer solutions that also made it hard for institutions to match payments with students.
As Flywire’s ambition to serve the global citizen expands, so has its platform. Flywire recently expanded its focus to include the burgeoning medical tourism market with the launch of a new cross-border payment solution for patients traveling overseas for medical care. Flywire hopes to transform cross-border medical payments in much the same way it did cross-border educational payments: providing speed, transparency, efficiency, payments and currency-agnostic payments services for the patient and ease of reconciliation to the medical institution.
Rosenblatt describes the acquisition of ScholarFX as just one more piece of a “multi-pronged approach that’s yielding growth and will continue to yield growth” — with the needs of its global citizen clearly front and center.
A strategy, he says, that allows Flywire to “double down on the world” — wherever its global citizens happen to take it.