How Electric8 saved S$10K a year on international payments

TransferWise
15.06.20
4 minute read
Saved $10K annually on international banking fees
Invested savings into annual team retreat

Who are Electric8?

Electric8 is a digital consultancy that helps companies find, scale, and sustain product-market fit — using research, product design, and growth data skills.

Industry: Consultancy services

Electric8, or E8, is a specialised agency who consult on end-to-end product, growth and design for tech companies in South East Asia.

We help drive retention for companies like RedDoorz in Singapore and user development for banks, like CIMB NIAGA in Indonesia.

What were our biggest challenges?

With headquarters in Singapore and an office in Jakarta, we often face situations where we're making lots of cross-border payments.

Paying our staff, for instance.

In Indonesia, we have a representative office and a cost centre. That means we can't technically generate revenue in the country. So we have to send money from Singapore to cover local staff salaries.

We also run a lot of projects around the region, so we need to pay clients too.

These projects involve going from one country to another in the region, interviewing potential users, and showing them prototypes.


“For our research projects, we make regular cross-border payments across Southeast Asia.”


And because we’re a bootstrap business, we try to be careful about high transaction fees too.

How we found a solution in TransferWise for Business

I first heard about TransferWise when I was living in London.

Initially, I started using it for personal reasons, and I still do to this day.

Once we knew that our business needed to send money to Indonesia or to freelancers across Southeast Asia, we were set on using TransferWise. Because it’s cheaper.

Kiyan Foroughi

Our main business account for day-to-day domestic banking remains OCBC – a large bank in Singapore. But for international transactions, we only use TransferWise for Business.

How TransferWise is helping us scale internationally

We use TransferWise for anything that goes out of Singapore in another currency. It's our default.

For two main reasons — firstly, the rate, by far the cheapest, and secondly, the transparency, ease of use of everything.

It’s very clear to us as a business what's going out, when, and what fees we're paying. But likewise on the other side, whoever we’re paying gets emails from TransferWise, "Hey you just received this much. You received that much."

It's very comforting for them to know that it has arrived and they don't have to chase us for it.

Saving on foreign expenses

When we're traveling across the region, we have a TransferWise business card, and we just load it up with the relevant currencies.

I can give you a very concrete example – I was going to Thailand, and wanted to exchange 100 Singaporean dollars’ worth of Thai Baht. With the fees, I remember with TransferWise it came out to approximately 102 Thai Baht.

The same day, I went to a local currency exchange bureau, and found that 102 baht would’ve cost me 115 Singaporean dollars.

That’s a 15% difference. And in our case, when we're also sending people salaries and big sums, much larger sums than 100 dollars. That 15% makes a big, big difference every month.

Because we don't have outside investors, every little saving is good.


“The exchange rate markups from banks — it all adds up. The differences contribute to, say, drinks for the whole team. Or even an outing. ”


The other thing I like when spending abroad is that the merchant sees you as a local bank. Your card is treated as a local card.

Whenever I'm in Indonesia, I take a lot of gojeks and bikes to go from one area of town to another. They don't cost much – around two or three dollars. But then on top of that, I'd normally be paying a minimum fee equivalent to 50 cents or $1 SGD.

I'd be paying a third in fees, but if I'm using my TransferWise card, it's nothing.

With the number of rides that we take per year, it adds up.

Syncing statements with our accounting software

We also use Xero for our accounting. And because TransferWise for Business easily links to Xero, it’s made things much easier for us.

When our finance and accounting person does manual reconciliations, the process becomes much faster than if having to reconcile our bank statements manually.

Why exchange rates matter for an international business like ours

When we did international banking with our bank, we frequently stumbled across rates which seemed suspicious.

Whereas with TransferWise, we know the rate isn’t marked up, and it's way lower — dirt cheap compared to other banking options out there.

For us, this makes TransferWise trustworthy.

And the payments are fast too

I also remember the first salary wire transfer I made to a member of our staff in Indonesia.

Literally, it was instant. At that point, I was convinced that together with better exchange rates, I was also using a very quick service.

Instant and transparent.

When you send an international payment with an ordinary bank, the money might arrive on the same day, but it will be hours later. It’s never instant for the route that we use.

Where are we now

If TransferWise didn't exist, we’d certainly feel the financial impact on our international transactions. And we wouldn’t be saving as much as we are today.

Where we are now


“On every $100K of international transactions throughout the year, TransferWise helps us save around $10K on fees.”


Without these savings, we wouldn't be able to fund our annual team offsite – something we want to continue organising.

There's just an ease of use that also comes with TransferWise. Things like transparency and instant payments — our business would miss these benefits.

Since our business started using TransferWise, we’ve been able to say ‘goodbye’ to unfair international banking fees set by traditional banks.

We always know what we’re paying and we can use the service locally as well as in other geographies.

It’s a great, mission-driven company with great values.

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