Interview with James Butland, VP of Global Banking at Airwallex

We caught up with James Butland, VP of Global Banking at Airwallex to talk all things from the importance of empowering small businesses to global expansion…

Tell us about Airwallex

Airwallex was founded from the difficulties encountered when co-founders Jack Zhang and Max Li struggled to buy coffee cups and labels for their coffee shop, Tukk & Co in Melbourne, Australia. They teamed up with university friends Lucy Liu, Xijing Dai and Ki-lok Wong to find a better way for small businesses to make purchases with offshore merchants without incurring typically high exchange fees.

The company was founded in 2015 to simplify and empower businesses through smart cross-border payment technology.

Now, four years on, we’re one of the world’s fastest-growing fintechs and have raised a total of $360m from some amazing investors. Globally we now have 14 offices with 450+ employees spanning across multiple regions.

What does Airwallex do?

Airwallex provides end-to-end financial services for businesses of all sizes.

Small and medium-sized businesses can sign up to our business account, where they can create virtual debit cards, open accounts in multiple currencies, access market-leading FX rates and send payments to 130+ countries in 50+ currencies. Whereas technology businesses can access a full suite of APIs with everything they need to build seamless payment experiences for their customers and partners.

How is Airwallex different from other businesses?

Many other fintechs that operate in a similar space that we do often solve one or two pieces of the puzzle or simply repackage their consumer offering. Airwallex is built for business and is able to provide end-to-end financial services without the need to work with multiple banks or providers. Second, we champion transparency. Business banking is notoriously expensive (especially when it comes to international transactions) and often stops business leaders from reaching new markets quickly.

Traditional banking providers often offer their own inflated exchange rates, hidden with a huge mark-up on the mid-market rate as found on Google. On top of that, there are additional fees simply to use their service and these are equally confusing to business owners. At Airwallex, we are always entirely transparent about how much a payment will cost to make or receive, offering the real exchange rate plus a small, upfront fee. We believe businesses of all sizes should be able to operate internationally. 

What does the future hold for Airwallex?

We’re focusing efforts on global expansion with Europe being a key market (hiring 50+ new employees by 2021 in the region). It’s a hugely important market to us, so ensuring we have the best workforce on the ground is crucial.

Another focus in building our platform is to serve more businesses to the highest standard. We have an ambitious roadmap of new product updates and developments that we’re so excited to bring to businesses all over the world. We always focus on not just what our customers need now, but what they may need in the future.