Money is surprisingly social. Venmo was one of the first U.S. startups to capitalize on that realization, designing its mobile app around an emoji-ridden social feed. Now messaging apps are seeing the light and welcoming financial services companies onto their platforms.
Today, TransferWise enters the fray with the launch of its Facebook Messenger bot. As with the TransferWise app, the bot provides a lower-cost means for executing cross-border payments. It will compete against a similar offering from Azimo Ltd., which announced its Messenger integration in August.
“We’ve been eyeing the messengers because it’s such a natural place for customers to want to send money,” says Scott Miller, TransferWise’s head of global partnerships.
For Facebook, any feature that encourages users to spend more time in the Messenger app is a win. Engagement is the goal, rather than directly monetizing payment processing or other banking functions. For fintech startups like TransferWise, the goal is to become ubiquitous across platforms, so that users need just one account and profile for digital transfers.
For TransferWise, that could extend one day to domestic money transfers—putting the company in direct competition with Venmo and Facebook itself, which built peer-to-peer technology for Messenger in-house. “It’s something we think about, for sure,” Miller says, declining to provide further detail.
Messenger bots for payments are also available from PayPal and Stripe, as well as American Express, MasterCard, and Visa.
London-based TransferWise, which processes approximately $1 billion in volume each month, is also looking to grow by integrating its technology into apps developed by banks and gig-economy marketplaces. Founded in 2010, it has the backing of the “PayPal mafia,” including Peter Thiel, through his fund Valar Ventures, and Affirm cofounder and CEO Max Levchin. At the company’s most recent financing round, last May, it was worth $1.1 billion.