Marketing is not magic: the real secret to the global growth of fintech unicorn TransferWise

- September 2, 2019 2 MIN READ
TransferWise Vice President of Growth Nilan Peiris had one major not-so-secret to the $3.5 billion company’s growth to reveal at the recent launch of Intersekt in Melbourne.

Customer evangelism drives growth.

In real terms: over 80% of their customers use TransferWise’s service after hearing about it from a friend. TransferWise now has over 5 million customers globally.

In a preview of what is to come Peiris outlined TransferWise’s five steps for global growth.

Find your mission = find a problem and solve it

Peiris said TransferWise was started to solve a basic problem of high-cost money transfers.

Finding a “mission” means a redefinition of companies not as a vehicle for creating wealth but as sustainable engines for solving consumer needs.

Their product makes it instant, convenient and transparent to transfer money, and it cuts the high cost hidden fees charged by major banks.

Use Net Promoter Scores = use your customers to drive brand growth

Peiris says that when the company started, they were mainly looking at how to improve their service. So, they asked their customers why they recommended TransferWise and leveraged the answers.

Their most successful marketing result has come from a basic email sent to customers outlining the TransferWise mission and why they do business the way they do.

It wasn’t marketing, but it was authentic and addressed the problem they were solving. As Peiris said: “We didn’t think of it as a growth hack, but as the right thing to do.”

Capture less value than you create = high-value service

Peiris said that unlike profit focussed companies, mission-driven businesses make customers happy sustainably.

He says TransferWise view the money they make from the margin as not company profit, but the customer’s money.

TransferWise Vice President of Growth Nilan Peiris. Photo: Supplied

This perspective means they see it as money the customer entrusts you to invest in the company to improve what they are doing. It also frames their Quarterly mission updates delivered with this focus in mind.

If you create value for your customer, you’ll capture less value than you create, but it will create good will and word of mouth referrals and lead toward growth.

Build a 10x product

Peiris says, while it’s not easy, new companies should aim to build something that is 10x better than what’s available in the market.

He says: “If you aren’t in a state of existential crisis you aren’t trying hard enough. Build something that didn’t exist, or even better, build something you didn’t know could ever exist.”

Marketing does not equal growth

Unfortunately, Peiris doesn’t believe that marketing means magical growth. Likewise, he believes the infinitely scalable channel doesn’t exist.

Instead, he said companies will find diminishing returns the more they spend on individual channels.

TransferWise focuses on the problem that marketing needs to solve, using a combination of PR, comms and marketing to educate consumers. They use PR for education and tactics like smart SEO to drive customers to their website.

And the bonus one: Scale people

People are at the heart of many problems faced in high-growth companies. According to Peiris, TransferWise has now flipped its view on how the company is growing.

He said the company sees its underlying growth rate not at the rate of onboarding new customers, but at the rate it hires and onboards people to have an impact.

Without these people to support the service, the growth is problematic and increases the probability of screwing up.


  • Rebecca Schot-Guppy is the GM of FinTech Australia. For more insights into global fintech growth, invest in your Intersekt ticket today.