Peer-to-peer online money exchange platform CurrencyFair has poached Richard Rose, the former chairman of AO World, to be its new chairman, hoping Rose can help CurrencyFair grow to a similar size as the listed white goods retailer.
Veteran businessman Rose was the CEO of tea company Whittard of Chelsea in the early 2000s before going on to chair businesses such as online home appliance retailer AO World, butchers Crawshaw’s, and retailer BlueInc.
Rose told Business Insider he specialises in chairing businesses that need “either corporate turnarounds or smaller companies that have an ambition to grow.”
He joined AO World when it was, in his words, a “small fledgling private company” in 2007, steering it to a £1.2 billion ($1.58 billion) stock market listing 7 years later in 2014.
Rose told BI that CurrencyFair is “another AO scenario”, saying: “What appealed to me about CurrencyFair is I thought it was operating in a very interesting space and presents a fantastic opportunity. For too long the banks have cleaned up by ripping customers off with hidden charges.”
CurrencyFair’s online platform lets people exchange money directly with other people looking to make the same trade in the opposite direction. The model offers customers cheaper prices than the traditional brokerage model, where middle men sit in between and take a bigger cut.
Rose says: “At AO, it took a number of years to build it to scale that would command the price we were looking for [from an IPO]. I think we could definitely get there quicker in the case of CurrencyFair because it’s such a compelling customer proposition but there’s no set timetable for an IPO at this stage.”
CurrencyFair CEO and founder Brett Meyers says in an emailed statement:
“I’m extremely excited to be working with Richard as CurrencyFair enters its next phase of growth. He has an incredibly impressive track record of delivering value to shareholders and keen insight into the scaling of businesses.”
The Irish company, which has been operating since 2010, raised €8 million in May and hired a new chief marketing officer as it looks to mount a marketing and growth push.
Alongside the appointment of Reed as chairman, CurrencyFair is also launching into money transfers for businesses.
Reed told BI: “We’re entering a new market to target our offer to SMEs [small and medium enterprises] which is showing great promise. SMEs pay high fees through the banks and we’ve customised our offer to suit their needs.”
CurrencyFair’s peer-to-peer model was recently criticised by the CEO of traditional Australian forex broker OFX Richard Kimber, who told BI: “The major challenge with the business model in peer-to-peer is inherently it assumes you’ve got an equal amount of buyers and sellers is any given currency.”
Rose says: “He would say that. We offer a dual model, so where that issue persists we can step in and offer a more traditional model and our customers choose both. We’re the only provider that can offer that true alternative.”
As well as traditional brokers like OFX and big players such as Western Union, CurrencyFair must compete with well-funded startups in the foreign exchange space such as TransferWise and WeSwap. Roses says CurrencyFair will differentiate itself through “great customer service, competitive prices, and an easy platform to use.”
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