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TransferWise, WorldRemit and Currencycloud: How UK startups are shaking up the remittance market

remittance

The history of international payments can arguably be summed up by the history of one company – the US-based Western Union.

Founded in 1851, the company dominated the telegraph industry for decades in the late 19th century. The expensive hardware required for sending a telegram meant it was very difficult for any of Western Union’s challengers to break into the firm’s huge profit margins. The company reached a near-monopoly in 1943 when it bought its main competitor, Postal Telegraph Inc.

As the communications firm was reaching near-supremacy, however, the winds of technology changed, and telegrams became ever-less important. Western Union was forced to adapt, and the company settled on cross-border payments as its relevance-maintaining niche.

But just as technology change in the 20th century – the decline of telegrams and the rise of phone and radio – broke Western Union’s communications monopoly, tech developments in the 21st century, which make cross-border payments easier, quicker and cheaper, are breaking Western Union’s monopoly once again....

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