Wise, the fintech company formerly known as TransferWise, has announced that it wants to become a public company on the London Stock Exchange. Instead of following the traditional IPO route, Wise plans to go public via a direct listing. This is going to be the biggest direct listing on the London Stock Exchange.
If you’re not familiar with Wise, the company specializes in cross-border money transfers. If you want to send money to someone living in another country, traditional retail banks charge a lot in foreign exchange fees, foreign transaction fees, etc.
Of course, there are some well-known alternative options, such as Western Union and MoneyGram. While those companies provide some convenient on-ramp and off-ramp methods, they’re still more expensive than Wise.
With Wise, users first upload money to their Wise account using a bank transfer or a debit card. They can then send money in another currency to a recipient’s bank account. The company tries to be as transparent and upfront as possible when it comes to fixed and variable fees.
Originally founded in 2011, Wise has grown quite a lot as its revenue grew from $422 million to $586 million in its most recent financial year (from £303 million to £421 million, respectively). It represents $57 million (£41 million) in profit before tax — the company says it has been profitable since 2017.
Overall, Wise has 10 million customers who process around $7 billion (£5 billion) in cross-border transactions every month. More recently, the company diversified its revenue by adding new products.
For instance, customers can hold money in 56 currencies in their Wise accounts. They get account numbers in 10 different currencies as well as a debit card. This feature is particularly useful for freelancers who want to accept payments in another country or people moving abroad for a year or two.
The company has also expanded beyond B2C with Wise Business. Those accounts work a bit like regular Wise accounts, but with multiple users and additional features. Wise also powers cross-border transactions in third-party services, such as Monzo and N26.
Opting for a direct listing is an interesting move. A few companies have chosen direct listings in the U.S., such as Spotify, Coinbase and Slack. It means that you’re confident there’ll be enough interest from investors, as banks aren’t helping you with your introduction.
It also means that Wise doesn’t need more money, as a direct listing doesn’t let you raise additional capital.
Like many tech companies, Wise plans to introduce a dual-class share structure, which means that all of Wise’s existing shareholders will get more votes per share for a while. This is going to be an important listing for the European fintech scene and also for the British tech ecosystem. Now, let’s see how investors feel about Wise.