Flywire, a trademark of peerTransfer Corp., emerged in direct response to cross-border payment challenges students attending institutions abroad often face. Using student loans to seed the company under its original name, peerTransfer, Iker Marcaide founded the company in July 2009. The idea blossomed when, as an international student, he had to transfer money from London to Boston for an MBA program at MIT Sloan School of Management.
At the time, transacting educational payments on an international scale lacked cohesion and transparency. "With cross-border payments, we felt like people were missing the fact that the consumer who has to send the money abroad, and then the receiver who has to receive these cross-border wires or bank transfers, were both having challenges, and there was no solution that solved both of them," said Mike Massaro, Chief Executive Officer at Flywire.
Flywire's platform, which connects students with institutions across six continents, helps students pay for tuition, room and board with much less friction. It operates offices in the United States, Spain, United Kingdom and China. Not only do students receive discounted exchange rates, they can see exactly what rates and fees will be charged, and are able to track payments with 24/7 multilingual customer service support, Flywire noted.
The platform continues to integrate payment options. "We've added not just international wire rails, but popular e-wallets, online banking integrations in some countries, and international credit cards, so that students can better pick the payment method that makes the most sense for them and, at the same time, get a wholesale foreign exchange rate upon the transaction," Massaro said.
About 80 educational institutions initially signed on for the service. "We started scaling, adding about 50 to 60 clients a quarter, and we now have over 900 clients across 14 different countries," Massaro said. He expects Flywire to process $2 billion in payments in 2016. According to the Institute of International Education, 900,000 students from 200 countries will attend U.S. colleges; over half of these foreign students hail from China, India and South Korea.
In November 2015, Flywire branched into medical tourism, a natural segue since many of its educational clients also operate medical facilities. A field once dominated by Americans seeking cheaper medical care outside U.S. borders, medical tourism now encompasses people from many countries seeking the level of care that exists in developed nations.
Patients Beyond Borders predicted annual growth in this sector of 15 to 20 percent, which it estimates currently generates $38 billion to $55 billion globally for medical tourism. Massaro said foreign patients typically obtain temporary medical visas, three to six months is average, then pay anywhere from $75,000 to $250,000 for U.S. medical treatment. Flywire patients can book payment in their home currency, and the platform manages the conversions.
"One thing that's big in the United States is the rehabilitation side of it," Massaro said, noting that the health risks associated with rehabilitation for medical procedures completed elsewhere has driven this movement. At the same time, many U.S. institutions are building hospitals and clinics in China and the Middle East. "It's one of those exports that will emerge," he said.
As Flywire focuses on cross-border niche markets, payment professionals have an opportunity to work with a team that is dedicated to business development in both channel and product expansion. Acquiring relationships are now part of its growing network, and integrations can be completed in a few days, Flywire noted.
"We're a very international processor," Mussaro said. "They sign a multiyear, exclusive contract, become a client of ours and become a payment processor just like they would sign a merchant processing agreement."
With the number of people transacting beyond national boundaries on the rise, Flywire's mission is to "empower consumers to live the global life, unconstrained by the immobility of their money" through a scalable, end-to-end, cross-border commerce platform.
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