UPDATED 21:04 EDT / JUNE 17 2021


Fintech startup Wise to go public via direct listing in the UK

Fintech startup Wise today announced plans to go public via a direct listing, a first by a tech company on the London Stock Exchange.

Founded in 2011 as Transferwise Ltd. by former Skype employees Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann (pictured), the company was “born of frustration” with the costs of transferring money from one person to another in different currencies.

One of the founders worked for Skype in Estonia and was paid in euros but lived in London, while another worked in London but had a mortgage in euros. The pair devised a plan in which they checked the exchange rate every month and one founder put pounds into the other founder’s U.K. bank account and the other put euros into an Estonian account. From this arrangement, the founders, in their words, pondered, “There must be others like us.”

Wise is best known for its peer-to-peer money transfer product that allows consumers and companies to move money across borders quickly and cheaply. The company reduces costs through internal management of international bank accounts to process transactions.

Suppose a user in one country wishes to pay a user in another. In that case, no wire transfer or similar action takes place, with the money going into the first account then the equivalent in the other country, and currency is withdrawn.

The money transfer business has been lucrative for Wise. Profitable since 2017, the company has more than 10 million customers who use the money transfer service to send $7 billion each month.

“The whole reason we are doing a direct listing is to avoid speculation around our valuation,” Kaarmann said in an interview by Bloomberg. “The artificial price-setting in an IPO is necessary for those that have to raise capital, but we, fortunately, don’t have to. We can wait for the market to tell us how much the company is worth, rather than setting a valuation target.”

How the market will value Wise is uncertain. Although the company was last valued at $5 billion in a secondary share sale last year, Sky News reported that the company is seeking a valuation of up to £9bn ($12.54 billion), well ahead of previous estimates.

Coming into its direct listing, Wise has raised $1.3 billion through a combination of venture capital, secondary market trades and debt financing, according to Crunchbase. Investors include Silicon Valley Bank UK, Fidelity, LocalGlobal, Baillie Gifford, Lone Pine Capital, Vulcan Capital, D1 Capital Partners, Vitruvian Partners and Latitude.

Photo: Wise

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