MEDICI Q&A With Mike Laven, CEO at Currencycloud

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“FinTech Leadership During the COVID-19 Crisis” is a new video series created by MEDICI Studio and FinStep Asia. In this Q&A session, Mike Laven, CEO at Currencycloud, answers a few questions about how they are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as an organization.

This video Q&A was moderated by Syed Musheer Ahmed – Managing Director of FinStep Asia, and Amit Goel – Founder of MEDICI. MEDICI’s new video series aims to showcase FinTech leaders in times of crisis and how they and their teams navigate these uncertain times.

Snippets from the discussion

Currencycloud in a nutshell

  • Currencycloud sells cross-border payments and receipts capabilities to its clients. The company does it on an embedded basis, and it doesn’t sell directly to the end users. 
  • Currencycloud’s platforms enable clients to make cross-border payments and receipts. 
  • The company has about 350 customers.
  • Many challenger banks globally use their services for business payments. 
  • About 250 people are primarily based in London (UK) and Amsterdam (NY).

Amit Goel: What’s happening in the cross-border remittance industry and specifically your company? I know your company has dozens of APIs. My question has two parts: 1. What’s happening with the overall demand for cross-border remittances (both on the retail and the business side)? 2. Specifically, within the areas that you cover with your APIs such as inbound money collection or foreign exchange, outgoing payments, and digital wallets. Amongst these, in what areas do you see definitive growth – a spike in terms of the demand?

Mike Laven: We have a very diverse client base, so we're seeing many different things going on in the client base. Let me caveat by saying that it does change week-to-week:

  • Firms that deal exclusively in travel and entertainment are struggling. 
  • Anything to do with e-commerce might be booming.
  • The remittance tends to be flat, but what we have seen interestingly is that the transaction or the volume that we process through the platform is pretty constant.
  • A lot of the smaller retail businesses are dropping off. 
  • The supply chains of B2B payment businesses seem to be relatively constant. It is not growing dramatically and is relatively constant.

Syed Musheer Ahmed: Considering the size of your team and the various clients you serve globally, how has your team been dealing with the COVID situation? You talked about most people working from home, but a lot of processes involve compliance. It also involves major project management. Technically, some things may be more difficult to achieve from a hardware perspective while working from home. How have you guys been managing in the last few weeks? 

Mike Laven: First of all, we had to do many planning processes to be able to implement work from home protocols effectively. Certain compliance processes require data protection. Certain banking processes require hardware and hardware components. We had to spend quite a lot of time thinking through how we could move all that in a protected fashion to home. So, we’ve done that. Right now, 100% of the employees now work from home. That transition has gone fairly well. As a technology company, we understand how to work from home.

Amit Goel: Remote engineering is the big talk of the town right now on Twitter and everywhere else. I also wanted to congratulate you on the new fundraiser earlier this year. I think it was very timely. You’ve raised around $80 million from Visa, World Bank, and others. I wanted to understand that in times like these, theoretically, the demand for digital products – and especially something like yours, which is embedded in finance – can help others transfer money. Theoretically, I think demand should go up quite drastically as everybody is trying to move to digital. Are you seeing that? Can you back that up in numbers as well?

Mike Laven: The remittance business, including the migrant remittance business, has a large cash component. But in the money transfer business, we think that this will accelerate the digital transformation of many parts of the economy, whether it is online retail that moves from cash to digital, or banks that are less retail.

(By the time) we go back to work, digital transformation will be accelerated across the board in every part of the economy.” – Mike Laven 

Amit Goel: This is also a time when I think the people factor, the human resources factors, is very important. How are you coping with fear, fatigue, and panic? I don’t know if I should say “fear,” but a lot of people seem to experience that. But, the fatigue with this new structure – working from home as well as the news – is belting out very disturbing things. So, there seems to be panic around. How are you dealing with this?

Mike Laven: Firstly, let me comment quickly on the funding which you mentioned. We had very good funders. It was a very big round, and it came in December 2019. We were backed by good people with cash in the bank. What that means is that we have money in the bank for a growing company. We still have to be very careful about how we manage that because we don’t know where the economy is going. But that is a distinction for many startups. Many of the startups I deal with are in markets that aren’t proven. Or they haven’t had a funding round recently, and are in a much different position than I am in. I still have to be very, very careful. But we have good people behind us.

I think the company must be very conscious that you have socially isolated people, and we need to do things to help them. We should be mindful that many employees are parents – if they are in meetings all day, the parents have to deal with a real problem because somebody has to look after their children. So, we have to be very, very conscious in terms of running the company. The mechanism of running the company while working from home differs from the mechanism involved in working together in the office.

By the time we get to week eight or week twelve, maybe you’d want to come back and ask me that question again. But right now, we are doing many things to help socially.

This transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity. To watch the full discussion on MEDICI Studio, click here.