We all know how hotly debated the topics of blockchain and bitcoin are in the world of FinTech. There are some who have believed in the technology and innovated using this technology while there are some who have stayed completely away from it. We had an opportunity to talk with Marwan Forzley, a 20 year veteran of the payments industry, to share his insights on blockchain technology. Marwan has sold two companies, the last being eBillMe, which was acquired by Western Union. After leaving Western Union last year, he started his venture, Align Commerce, an international payments company that uses the blockchain as a core differentiator. Marwan has a passion for launching new products into new markets both domestically (in the US) and internationally. We covered a number of topics in the remittances and blockchain space during the conversation, which was also an opportunity for Marwan and LTP CEO, Aditya Khurjekar to catch up. Here’s a summary of the interview:
LTP: As you look at the various segments of the market, what made you focus on this “small b” as in smaller businesses? What was the problem to solve?
Marwan Forzley: If you look at the current experience of receiving a wire transfer, you don’t see or even know what happens during that process. However, with this modern rail, the full process can be tracked from the payer to the payee. There’s no trip to the bank either. For example: Let’s consider sending money via wire transfer to Germany. If you are a US business looking to send a payment to Germany, firstly you will have to collect all of the information from the receiver in Germany. You will also have to figure out the foreign exchange rate. Then you will have to fill out a form online or in-person. On top of that, there is very little visibility or transparency when the remittance is actually happening between the payer and the payee.
Now let’s look at cross-border invoicing using the blockchain technology as a transport rail. Blockchain technology is built in a way where you can attach all kinds of directions and notes to the network. Blockchain is the transportation system that connects all these payment systems. For example: Blockchain technology provides the ability to track that shipment of money from source to destination. If you use blockchain technology for international payments, the transactions wouldn’t require the traditional wire transfer “rails” and associated expensive secure messaging. It will be as simple as the payer specifying the amount to send and the payee receiving it directly to his bank account.
For small businesses, this problem is even more acute because they want to focus on running their businesses not on managing the operations of remitting money across borders.
LTP: So is the blockchain essentially removing unnecessary friction in moving money between two points across borders? ?
MF: Yes, the blockchain technology is speeding up the transaction by providing a faster and more efficient method of moving money. In fact, Blockchain technology has the ability to optimize the global infrastructure to deal with global issues in this space much more efficiently than current systems.
LTP: Clearly, the blockchain ecosystem has matured significantly. Do you still see any naysayers, traditional banks and resistance who seem to oppose the technology?
MF: There is definitely better awareness in the market about the blockchain. I’m not sure if all the regulators understand the nuances and I think there is some education required in that area. Yes, there are naysayers, but let me give you an analogy: I remember the first data phone call and the whole idea of online calls. We now take this telephony using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) for granted? At that time, even 15 years ago, many people said that this is an unreliable, unsecure and illegal method of telephony. But can you now imagine things without Skype or Vonage? As VoIP was to telephony then, Blockchain is to remittances now.
LTP: As you look at your company’s roadmap now and into the future, what is a key milestone that you see for yourself?
MF: We are looking for more and larger businesses to become comfortable using blockchain. We are seeing good traction there as well. Today, we are able to move funds in 35 countries and we are looking to add some more. In the past, like last year, there was some curiosity about what blockchain will do, and I think we are well beyond curiosity. I think we have one of the most powerful payment platforms for global commerce. We have real technical experience and people are interested in it. It’s amazing how we need blockchain innovation to solve problems associated with things like wire transfers.
Big companies like IBM and Chase publicly say how important is the blockchain technology. We have built a great use case that leverage this new technology. We invite everyone to look at our testimonials https://aligncommerce.com/
LTP: Why can’t other remittance companies do what you do and why does it have to be done in a startup?
MF: It is different because of a decentralized system in large companies. Sometimes they also need to sort out their old point of view. So I think it would take sometime to deal with and integrate the entire technology into their organization.
LTP: It’s been a great discussion, Marwan.Anything else you would like to add to this conversation?
MF: The market is really good for us and it’s maturing fast and we are open to more business!