How a fintech startup went global with people-focused payments

Tranglo, a cross-border payment company that started in Malaysia, has gone global with a simple approach to business.

Fintech is not just about having the most innovative technology or the best product. It’s also about understanding people’s needs and creating solutions that resonate with them.

Tranglo, a cross-border payment company that started in Malaysia, has gone global with a simple approach to business - by putting people right in the heart of its daily operations.

Jacky Lee, its group CEO, explained the three people-focused principles.

“Everything we do is about having a diverse and talented workforce to create reliable technology and build genuine partnerships,” he says.

“It started with answering people’s demand for international airtime top-ups. Foreign workers needed them for their loved ones back home, so we filled the gap to stabilise supply. In 2015, we pivoted to cross-border payments, again prioritising people’s need for more affordable remittances.”

That seemed to have worked out for Tranglo, growing quickly despite the 2015 global oil crash and the pandemic wilderness. Thousands of businesses, including global giants like Wise, Alipay and Payoneer, leverage Tranglo’s cross-border payment solutions daily to help millions of individuals across 70 countries transact.

In 2018, the company processed US$1.3 billion ($1.77 billion); the amount would jump more than twice to US$3.3 billion in 2022. Having already moved over US$2 billion in the first six months of 2023, that it would exceed last year’s figure seems a foregone conclusion.


H2: Diverse talent


A diverse and talented workforce goes a long way in driving excellence. When he took over as group CEO in 2018, Jacky stressed the importance of having employees with different cultures and backgrounds.

“Diversity fuels innovation. We want revolutionary ideas and solutions, which can only happen if we have fresh perspectives from all walks of life.”

Since 2018, Tranglo’s workforce has grown by 40% from 140 to 260 in five countries, cutting across racial and cultural lines. Women hold over 60% of the leadership positions, including the chief strategy officer and chief business officer.

McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm, has published a series of reports on the impact of diversity on business. Its findings suggest that Tranglo’s strong performance and growth are no coincidence.

In short, McKinsey found that the most gender-diverse companies outperformed the least gender-diverse ones by 48%. In addition, companies with high gender diversity in leadership were also 25% more likely to enjoy above-average profits.

Besides diversity, Tranglo believes in promoting an inclusive workplace where everyone is heard. The company knows from experience that an environment that empowers employees will make them feel valued and lead to more creative problem-solving.

“Our employees can be open about their opinions, and the leaders will respect that. At Tranglo, we don’t condone a lack of communication. Like cross-border payments, we (transactions) will fail if different parts don’t talk and work together. If we can’t keep it together, how can we build solutions that can?”

Reliable technology


The fintech industry is naturally drawn to technology in a world where digitalisation takes centre stage. After all, 93% of companies surveyed in the Digital Business Study have adopted or have plans to adopt a digital-first business strategy.

Tranglo is no different. However, its focus on building trust with people through reliable technology sets it apart.

“When individuals place their money with our business partners who pass it on to us, that comes with expectations that we will safeguard their interests at all times,” Jacky said.

“That is why we’ve invested heavily in cutting-edge cybersecurity measures to protect our data and transactions. When people use Tranglo, we want them to know their money is safe. We find it easier to build trust with people when our technology is reliable, secure and consistent.”

Tranglo’s technology was developed in-house and has undergone massive improvements. When it started in 2008, it worked on a proprietary solution that automated sourcing and selling international airtime transfers from any worldwide mobile network operator. Seven years later, it added functions to address other cross-border challenges relating to physical inventory, logistics and account management. In 2021, the Monetary Authority of Singapore granted additional payment functions to the company, allowing it to provide account issuance, domestic money transfer and e-money issuance services.

Today, Tranglo’s cross-border payment technology completes 80% of its transactions in real-time. Its data servers have a 99.982% uptime after accounting for the added resources needed to fulfil compliance and legal parameters.

Tranglo is embarking on an ambitious project to futureproof its technology, rebuilding its platform from the ground up to drive better user experience. At the same time, the platform will retain the full functionality of its single interface API, such as complete integration between front and back-end services, allowing seamless and secure transaction requests and settlement in one place.

Genuine tie-up


Cross-border payment partnerships are often pragmatic, with partners focusing only on what they can get from that collaboration. Jacky said Tranglo can be picky when choosing who to work with.

“Very early on, we knew we wanted partners who share a similar vision - to create a world where payments are inclusive and accessible. More than just business, margins and crunching numbers, we sought out those who shared a similar passion to further financial inclusion.”

For example, Tranglo’s partnership with South Korean fintech SentBe focuses on providing remittance access to Filipino migrants. In Australia, it works with Eastern and Allied to help millions of Indonesian migrants and students gain access to crucial money transfer services. In Singapore, it has a strong relationship with Singtel Dash, enhancing the local e-wallet’s remittance services for the migrant diaspora. Last month, it announced a similar arrangement with Malaysian leading fintech Touch ‘n Go eWallet to make money transfers easier for its 20 million users.

All these partnerships have one thing in common - to open up financial access to the underserved through genuine collaborations.

“It’s about creating value together. We work closely with our business partners to understand their operations and challenges and suggest solutions to meet their and their customers’ needs,” said Jacky.

“For example, cash flow is one of the biggest challenges SMEs face when expanding quickly. To solve that, we work with Ripple, the leading enterprise blockchain and crypto solutions provider, to extend credit facilities via its On-Demand Liquidity (ODL) service. This helps our partners to free up working capital and grow.”

At the time of writing, Tranglo has helped SMEs such as Xbaht and Pyypl free up millions of dollars in cash flow. ODL transactions went from a paltry US$53 million in 2021 to US$970 million in 2022.

Since 2008, the company has enjoyed a 20% y-o-y increase in partnerships, expanding its operations from five countries to over 70, including Europe and the Middle East. Its emphasis on genuine collaborations, such as recent ones with Al Ansari and Lulu Money, has helped it forge long-lasting relationships with financial institutions and businesses worldwide that are equally eager to transform the payments industry into a more inclusive one.

Making cross-border payments meaningful

Tranglo’s principles of placing people at the centre of all its decision-making may sound simple, but it requires years of dedication to making cross-border transactions meaningful. Another critical factor is a sound expansion strategy.

Jacky said the company would expand to the US and Canada next year.

“We have a strong base in Asia Pacific (APAC), Middle East and the UK, so we thought it’s time to help the underserved across the sea. We now have the technology to make transactions faster and easier, partnerships to leverage regional infrastructure and pool resources to develop shared services, and talent on board to make optimal decisions that align with our vision.”

“We can and should make cross-border payments better.”

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