The Big Interview

Q&A: Find.Exchange Founder, Ricky Lee

“Think of us as the Skyscanner of the money transfer world”

Coin Rivet: Tell us about Find.Exchange

Ricky Lee: The inspiration for Find.Exchange came to me whilst on holiday in Thailand. I was waiting for an exchange bureau to open and an Australian living in the area approached me and offered his Thai Baht in exchange for my GBP – at a better rate than the currency rate at the time.

This highlighted to me the excessive charges that companies were making for this service: transferring money is an increasingly complex and expensive process, whereby travellers and companies who send and receive money abroad are suffering unnecessarily from hidden or confusing charges.

Booking my flight home from Thailand, through Skyscanner, I realised the same model of comparison site could be applied to the money exchange and transfer market. By drawing on my expertise as a product designer across FX, cross-payments, gateways and digital currencies, I was able to take this ‘idea’ and turn it into something real and tangible.

Coin Rivet: What came next?

Find.Exchange is now an international company, with an international team, and we’re creating a solution for people across the globe. For the past three years, we’ve been perfecting the core features of Find.Exchange – which we define as being the comparison site for money transfer companies, prepaid currency cards and currency exchange bureaus.

Think of it as the Skyscanner of the money transfer world. It will also enable users to locate the nearest exchange bureaus to them that have the best rates, so they can be assured of the optimum deal wherever they are in the world.

To sum it up, if you’re sending, spending or exchanging money abroad, Find.Exchange will save you time and money. Currently, I’m looking at using blockchain technology to take my three-year-old FinTech startup to the next level. We’ll be using the technology to make international money transfers faster, cheaper and more secure.

Coin Rivet: How can blockchain be a game-changer here?

RL: Initially created as the mother of the payments world – bringing with it the arrival of the P2P payment process – blockchain technology has become an international phenomenon, very quickly, offering solutions to industries across the board. Its introduction to the financial services ecosystem, in particular, has engendered the promise of a whole new era and real transformation.

Blockchain is all about being able to move data from A to B at speed and securely. For currency exchange, it’s the next logical step towards delivering a transparent, secure and fast service – and so it’s the perfect technology for the money transfer marketplace and our solution. We’re using blockchain technology, combined with our cryptocurrency, to create an accessible and easy-to-use banking platform which focuses highly on money transfer and currency exchange.

Essentially, as an industry, we are only just dipping our toes into the blockchain ocean, and no one really knows what to expect as we dive in deeper. What we do know however is that next gen technology like this will be game-changing.

Coin Rivet: You’ve recently been on a ‘world tour’, attending blockchain events from LA to Dubai and New Delhi. How did this go in terms of expanding your network, exchanging ideas and seeking out investment?

RL: It’s been a busy few months, with non-stop travelling to the East, West and everywhere in between. Attending these events has yielded some great results for us in terms of connecting with potential investors who want to get involved and crypto/blockchain enthusiasts who want to help us develop the product.

We’ve also been able to tap into some top talent around the globe – it’s so important for us to widen our talent pool given the looming skills shortage, especially on the fintech scene. Ultimately, the tour provided a powerful platform for us to showcase our solution, to inform people of what we do and how we can help them. The learning and sharing experiences have been invaluable and will keep us evolving with shifting demands.

The feedback since we returned has been overwhelmingly positive, giving us vital insight into which features of the Find.Exchange platforms generate the most interest. Connecting with people who are as passionate about crypto and FinTech as we are is priceless.

Coin Rivet: How do you respond to critics who say that blockchain technology is smoke and mirrors?

RL: There is no doubt that the uses for blockchain are largely unknown, especially to the outsider who is unfamiliar to the technology, (as the critics often are). However, the uses are largely unknown due to the huge potential of the technology.

We’ve recently been presenting our upcoming product launch at various blockchain events. At every event I was astonished by the variety of products and services available based on blockchain, but more significantly, the number of industries that the technology threatens to disrupt.

From farming to pharmacy, blockchain has the ability to streamline a great number of processes for companies in all industries, whether it’s supply chain management, payments, settlement and so much more.

But don’t take my word for it. Boeing have recently announced that they will be using blockchain technology in a new fleet of unmanned vehicles; certainly doesn’t sound nebulous. Furthermore, Japanese internet services giant, GMO has recently launched a new web bank and will be using blockchain to settle payments.

These are just two recent developments, but there are hundreds of examples of large corporations adopting blockchain, either for new ventures or to streamline existing processes. Other examples can be seen with IBM, Mastercard, Microsoft, Bank of America, Accenture and many more. You can argue there is no substance to the solutions, but you’ll be arguing with some big corporations that you probably use.

Coin Rivet: Where do you stand on the current state of play re. regulation of blockchain technology?

RL: While the recent regulations have had a significant negative effect on cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology has not been targeted to the same degree. The sale, purchase and general distribution of blockchain based cryptocurrencies has been essentially banned in the USA, China and many other regions.

While other governments have placed a range of regulations to manage and control distribution. However, blockchain technology itself is not only avoiding restrictions, but is in fact being promoted by a number of government bodies due to its great potential.

The Guardian recently reported that the UK has the potential to become the crypto economy leader by 2022, stating that the UK Government ‘sees promise in blockchain technology’ and ‘has shown commitment to support the accelerated developments of the digital economy’ using a number of government initiatives.

Dubai has also shown a strong interest in blockchain with the implementation of a Blockchain Minister. The local government has also arranged a number of exhibitions for local and international companies to showcase their blockchain-based solutions.

While regulations have hindered the growth of blockchain solutions, it appears to be easing its grip with China and the USA presenting a progressively more liberal approach to blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Coin Rivet: What can we next expect from Find.Exchange and where would you like the company to be by this time next year?

RL: We’re very proud of the solution we’ve been building over the past three years. We have helped a huge number of people to save money on their international transfers and currency exchanges.

However, we wanted to take this to the next level, offering our users an all-in-one money management platform. We found that certain financial processes were over-priced and outdated; especially money transfer, currency exchange and spending abroad. We’re creating a platform which will save users across the globe time and money; whether they’re transferring funds, exchanging currency, spending money or simply storing it.

We found that the vast majority of financial companies were providing users with a poor user experience due to overly complicated software. We feel that one of the most important factors for a financial platform, second to security, is ease of use. Users should be able to effortlessly manage their finance from their mobile, without having to learn their way around a complex user journey.

The world is more connected now than ever before. With the rate of globalisation constantly increasing, financial technology seems to have fallen behind the times. With a smartphone and Wi-Fi, you can contact someone on the other side of the world instantly, for free. However, if you want to send them money, it’s a very different story. Not only does the process take far longer, it’s also very costly and can be complicated.

We feel finance platforms have massive room for improvement. We’re confident our solution will benefit everyone.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author should not be considered as financial advice. We do not give advice on financial products.

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