October 19, 2016
Circle’s Spain and Ireland Launches and the Commoditization of FX
This week Circle formally launched social payment apps in Spain and Ireland. People in those countries can connect any Spanish or Irish bank account to Circle to send and receive peer to peer payments, with native euro support, to friends and family within their countries and across borders instantly, at the best exchange rate available to consumers, with zero fees.
Circle’s vision is that money should work the way that the internet works: instant, global, free and fun. We can send and receive emails, text messages and share personal content through messaging in this way, but only now has it become possible to share and exchange value and money in the same manner. Circle makes that possible with an experience that combines payments and social messaging, building on the past 5+ years of consumers adopting mobile messaging as their primary interface for social interactions.
Most of our personal and social payments are “domestic” -- they are between friends and family and colleagues within our own country -- in the same way that our text and email messages are mostly with those same cohorts.
But, at the same time, consumers expect to share information instantly and globally, without thinking of barriers at country borders. The internet and open platforms have conditioned us all to this new human possibility. We believe the same can be the case with money.
For example, our UK and US customers who hold £ and $ can now send and receive Euros with customers in Spain or Ireland at the speed and convenience of the internet in the same way they are used to sharing messages, photos, or any other content.
FX Pricing Disruption
Traditionally, when a consumer wanted to send or receive value across currencies they’ve been charged enormous fees. Technology is making it possible to exchange value for nearly free, and we’ve taken that to heart in how Circle prices currency exchanges.
The market rate for buying or selling one currency for another is established through the rates that the largest banks in the world pay each other for currency. When sending a wire or bank transfer across currencies, banks typically add an additional 3-4% on top of that ‘market rate’ and also often add even further one-time fees on top of that. Legacy money transfer companies charge upwards of 10% above the market rate. Newer ‘Digital Money Transfer’ companies are making this more competitive, with pricing typically 1-2% above the market rate.
At Circle, we aim to deliver the best rate possible in the world, with Circle’s exchange rate typically being around 0.2% to 0.3% above the market rate.
So in addition to enabling seamless domestic p2p payments for European customers, we are also introducing FX pricing that aims to commoditize consumer value exchange across currencies. Over the long run, we believe that the ‘spread’ paid by consumers when exchanging value across currencies will not only approach zero, but reach zero, just as the cost of a voice chat, a text message and an email have reached zero.
A New User Experience for Money
All of this is expressed with a delightful consumer experience, accessible via the Web and through native iOS and Android Apps. Customers can easily connect any bank debit card to fund and receive payments. Money is available instantly to send and instantly upon receipt, even across currencies. Circle brings all of this together in a manner that combines payments with familiar messaging behaviors and features (contacts, emoji, messages, images, conversations linked to events, etc).
Further, with our recent Circle for iMessage launch, any iOS 10 customer can use Circle directly from within iMessage, in the context of conversations with friends and family, without leaving iMessage and without launching a separate app.
Our product launches in Spain and Ireland take another step toward realizing our vision of instant, global, free and fun consumer payments. As an EU-licensed E-Money Issuer, Circle is committed to serving all of the 500M+ European consumers in the EU/EEA, and we will be adding more countries over the next several weeks and months.
Jeremy & Sean, Circle Co-Founders