At Currencycloud we are lucky to have some great partners that share our vision of building a fairer and more inclusive global economy, making it easier to move money around the world.
One of these partners is Eris FX. In this article, we speak to Helen Scott, CEO, and Founder of Eris FX, about their journey so far and how they are working to make the FX industry more customer centric.
Talk us through the origins of Eris FX – where did your journey begin?
Before founding Eris FX, I spent 16 years in the institutional financial markets in London and Tokyo. I ran the Japanese Warrant desk for Société Générale and was senior Far East Fund Manager for Family Assurance Friendly Society, amongst other things. As these positions all involved currency trading and hedging, I gained great experience in the currency industry.
I was also involved with the Japanese Ministry of Finance developing an online trading platform, which was a great grounding in how electronic dealing systems worked.
Around 2003, I had a chance meeting with a business owner who was tired of paying the huge bank spread every time he needed to change money. He asked me to write him a business plan for a new kind of FX company.
The plan that I put forward was radically different from anything that was happening in the industry at the time. The few FX companies around all operated a telephone-based service using dealers. My proposal was to build an institutional-level FX and payments dealing platform using live streaming exchange rates, but aimed at the retail market – the SMEs and individuals who had been underserved by the large banks.
Why did you take this path?
It has been said that “an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man or woman”. My natural inclination as an individual is to be open, fair, honest, and truthful. I try to run my business in the same way.
The current regulations make it seem that FX is the only financial service in the world where customers do not price sensitive. Numerous efforts have been made to change this by mandating public pricing policies and cost information for international credit transfers, without success. This has mostly been due to lobbying by the traditional players in Financial Services. This is a real shame, as every year SMEs are charged with £4 billion in hidden fees, mainly in the FX markup and it’s likely that individual consumers pay even more.
Despite this, there are almost no FX firms that have taken the step to openly declare their pricing policies or charges to potential customers. Instead, many promote unsubstantiated messages about cost savings or the competitiveness of their rates vs the banks. We thought we could offer a more customer-centric service and so have taken a different approach.
What differentiates Eris FX?
The FX industry still has this stigma of pinstripe-wearing males with aggressive sales tactics, based in the heart of London. With Eris FX I wanted to step out of that reputation.
We are the only FCA-authorised payments business based in Yorkshire and are also a female-led business, which is very rare in this industry. Both mean we have a different approach to how we do things. Our aim at Eris FX is to build an FX service that is focused on offering the best possible service for customers, which is why the business is owned and run by the people who make the customer-facing decisions. All our employees have equity in the company and are not employed on a commission basis, meaning no aggressive sales tactics and a real focus on the customer’s need.
We believe there’s no reason not to be customer-centric and are on a mission to change that about the industry as a whole. All our customers are equally important to us so we charge exactly the same to every customer for an identical deal, regardless of who they are.
With the FX market moving so quickly with multiple price changes every second, it’s often difficult for customers to shop around for the best rate. The only true comparison of value is the total markup shown as a percentage against the mid-market rate. We wanted to help customers navigate this complex market by publishing our rates and costs openly on our website. Most customers only register with one FX company so we think it’s important that they have all the information they need before they make that decision, including, most importantly, price.
We use our own bespoke-built platform to show live, streaming dealing rates and real-time costs against the mid-market rate. Prospective customers can see exactly what their transaction will cost before they commit to anything with Eris FX, meaning customers can compare the margin offered with what they are currently getting with another provider. However, unlike with credit cards where providers have to publish the Annual Percentage Rate (APR), there is no equivalent requirement for FX rates making it hard for the consumer to compare across providers.
What does the future hold?
Eris FX is trying to disrupt the industry for the good of consumer choice and competition and will continue to do so. I believe that consumers will start to demand a more customer-centric approach from providers, so they can make more informed decisions – we have already seen this across other areas of financial services and I believe that this change will happen in FX soon too.
So we will continue to work towards fairer, transparent pricing for our customers because we believe that FX customers are just as price-sensitive as users of other financial services. With partners like Currencycloud backing our bold, we will continue to push for a better, fairer, and more transparent service for customers and build an FX market we can be proud of.