|Entering a new era: Imperial FX is transitioning from high street to online|
Imperial FX was founded in late 2012 by Ali Alani and soon developed a network of bureau de change stores across Europe and affiliates in the Middle East – most notably in Iraq, Dubai and Jordan.
This was in part due to managing director Alani leveraging personal connections in the region – his family has offered remittances services in the Middle East since the early 1980s.
The acquisition of remittance provider Oi Brasil Finance in 2014 gave the company access to one of the most lucrative corridors for remittance between the UK and South America, and in August it started offering funds transfer to Poland.
The World Bank Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016 valued annual remittance outflows from the UK at $11.5 billion in 2014.
Recognizing that economic migration was driving up demand for moving money internationally, Alani announced at the beginning of March that the company had raised £50 million to develop an online platform.
However, he acknowledges that the move from high-street remittance to online has been challenging.
“We have consolidated all our branches to ensure we have the required resources to launch and market the online remittance software,” he says.
“The basic technology is in place and is live and working on the website, and we are in the process of creating our payment gateway, which is in the final testing phase and is scheduled to go live early in 2018.”
One of the most interesting aspects of the move – and a possible explanation for why the online platform has taken longer than expected to build – is that the company chose to develop its own money transfer technology rather than relying on third-party systems.
“We decided that developing proprietary remittance software technology would be the best move in the long run to ensure we have the most secure system,” explains Alani.
“We have worked hard to build up a trusted circle of contacts, so finding people with the required skills for the project wasn’t too difficult.”
This approach allows Imperial FX to be more responsive should there be any sudden issues or downtime, as it is not relying on any third parties, says Alani, adding: “As we have invested in creating our own systems, we will be able to offer competitive rates.”
The company also aims to help other businesses tap into the peer-to-peer payments market, which Forrester Research estimates will be worth $17 billion in transaction volume by 2019.
“We have made progress in selling our white-label service to other companies and have incorporated Imperial Software Limited, a brand dedicated to offering our technology to other companies who wish to use it,” says Alani.
“We have three white-label agents in the Middle East and we hope to market the product further once we are 100% confident of all the features.”
Plans for 2018 include opening an office in Dubai to capture a share of the online remittances market in the emirate and increasing the company’s profile in other regional markets.
Imperial FX has already formed a relationship with Bank Millennium in Poland to allow all of its online customers the ability to send money for cash pick-up in any of the bank’s 300 locations, and is in early talks with a bank in Bangladesh that has more than 3,000 locations to allow the company to provide cash pick-ups in that country.
“We have identified a unique market of people in the UK who want to send money online to allow family members in other countries to pick up the money via cash pick-up,” says Alani.
“We plan to continue this expansion worldwide.”
Organizations using UK-domiciled bank accounts to pay and collect funds and support money-transfer corridors would be impacted if Sepa rules were no longer applicable to remittance and money-transfer firms based in the UK.
Alani observes that the possible Sepa benefits that could be lost include paying fees at domestic rates and processing times, although he also notes that the UK could continue to be a part of the payments area as a member of the European Free Trade Association or the European Economic Area.