Over time, the way we use and move money has changed evolved. My parents and their parents used to walk into a bank, more often than not stand in a queue and get their money for the day or week over the counter and speak with bank managers - who'd probably know them by name. Using the now almost redundant cheque book was common place too. Today's world sees most customers manage their money via phones and computers, with the occasional trip to a cashpoint.
An ever-developing world
The UK saw a 15% decrease in notes and coins used in 2018; we are becoming ever-closer to a cashless society - fintech is booming and the goalposts have shifted. Globalisation is increasing along with technology, which brings opportunity and possibilities for businesses and individuals that may not have been historically possible. Whether a business is buying bulk furniture from China or an individual importing a car part from the US, foreign currency is required to settle the payment. Businesses and individuals would historically go into the bank, or more recently phone up their bank to facilitate this. The evolution of cashless payments and not having to physically go 'in branch' has changed this landscape.
It is right to say that banks are still able to exchange between two currencies but as a minuscule part of their business, it is widely known that they pay little or no attention to the end user. Often, the rate - the difference between the exchange rate and the rate that the end user actually gets - is poor with currency being a fixed rate set by the banks, and you had to put up and shut up. Now however, it is yet another front where fintech has used technology to put power in the hands of the consumer.
Given the shift in consumer behaviours, how many people would use a bank for their mortgage, insurance or indeed for a home improvement loan? As time's passed, many think nothing of switching providers in the energy, telecom and internet markets but the mindset or even supplier change wasn't easy. Now, there are many comparison sites that make switching both easy and cost-effective.
That said, despite the numerous comparison sites, people are still paying too much for services - with a recent study suggesting homeowners pay £300 a year too much on energy. The same can be said about the foreign exchange market, with 80% of businesses not knowing how much their FX payments actually cost. There are plenty of businesses and individuals going to what they historically thought as the place to go for anything financial - the banks. Due to the unregulated nature of FX, the banks - who somehow still manage to retain a degree of loyalty - still hide their fees within customers' payments.
Don't shy away from the consideration of switching your currency provider much like you may have done for your mortgage, water, electricity to name a few. But what are the benefits of switching FX providers?
- Financial benefits are probably the main reason for switching, especially so if you can fix a rate
- Improved customer service and overall product satisfaction are both huge considerations
- Does your provider have an online platform? - These are useful when booking trades outside of office hours
- Does your currency provider have the facility to exchange a specific pair? - This could be an important factor, if you wish to deal in new territories
Cost of switching
- Weigh up the cost of switching providers both in terms of time and money versus how much you will save. - If you're only transacting smaller amounts and on an irregular basis, it might not be worth switching
- Do your research and don't fall for the 'we beat the banks' line. - Do they have the proof to back this up?
- Can the provider offer a transparent service where the margin is agreed up front? - Be wary of those that can't.
So, just as we wave goodbye to the bank queue and cheque book, the idea of foreign exchange through banks is also on its way out. Today's users demand fairness, transparency, speed and ease - don't settle for less.
Once you know what suppliers are available, it's worth weighing up your options. Consider using an independent review site such as Trustpilot, where real people, real users of a service give businesses their feedback - good, bad or indifferent.
Switching your provider from a traditional service might be perceived as a hassle but with financial and long-terms benefits possible, it's certainly worth considering your options.