WorldFirst provides a reliable online platform for international payments. Competitive rates, advanced tools and no maximum limit makes this a service worth considering.
- Many currencies available
- Advanced foreign exchange tools
- Regular market updates and industry analysis
- No maximum transfer limit
- Potential of unexpected charges from the Swift network
- Minimum transfer value is quite high (£1,000)
- Keeping track of payments can be slightly complicated
In the past decade, WorldFirst has incurred an incredible amount of growth. From its humble start-up beginnings in a house basement, the company has expanded to over 600 employees in 7 countries across the world, including its headquarters in the United Kingdom.
With the simple goal of making foreign exchange simple and fuss-free, WorldFirst has certainly proved popular with its customers to date. Since its launch in 2004, the company has helped over 290,000 individuals and small businesses transfer over £60 billion, which is no small feat, I’m sure you’d agree.
The company’s online platform spans 43 currencies, which is an enticing offer for those who regularly transact across international borders. To learn more about their capability, and to see if their service is right for you, read on for my in-depth review of WorldFirst.
Company history and founding story
WorldFirst was established in 2004 by Jonathan Quin and Nick Robinson, two foreign exchange colleagues from Citibank. From the basement of a house in South London, the pair had the ambition to make moving money cheaper and easier. Less than a month after founding, WorldFirst’s first customer was acquired and a new business was born.
In the years since the company has expanded significantly to establish a total of 7 offices around the world. And, as of the end of 2016, now transfers over £8.5 billion on behalf of its customers annually. WorldFirst has also won a number of awards over this time, including The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For in 2013 and The Queen’s Award for International Trade in 2016.
Since the company’s inception, co-founder Jonathan has led WorldFirst as CEO and is currently supported by Kerry Tremble as Chief Financial Officer and Tim Rudman as Chief Operating Officer. Each of these senior executives has extensive experience in banking and financial services from firms such as Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, and KMPG. They are joined by Wendy Glasgow, serving as Chief Compliance Officer.
WorldFirst supports the transfer of 43 currencies, leading to a total servicing of approximately 137 countries. To support this transaction ability, the company has established a network of bank accounts worldwide using a combination of international banking partners, as well its own local subsidiaries. This allows WorldFirst to facilitate trades in both directions of many currency pairings.
WorldFirst has a minimum transfer value of £1,000, which is relatively high for a service of its type. As for maximum transfer values, there aren’t any. The WorldFirst platform has been developed to handle large payments of almost any amount. This is an exciting feature for high-net-worth and commercial customers, who may run into limitations imposed by other online currency transfer services.
Exchange rates and fees
Before committing to using a currency transfer service, it’s important to understand its business model. Put simply, a company like WorldFirst typically generates revenue in two ways. Firstly, it may charge a transaction fee for executing each transfer. Secondly, it may also take a margin on the exchange rate provided to its customers, also known as the “spread”; which is the difference between the exchange rate of the wholesale market (i.e. the interbank rate), and the exchange rate offered to the customer.
When comparing the pricing of WorldFirst against traditional banks, the company fares extremely well. Banks typically charge a large transaction fee and a 5% margin on the total value of the transfer. WorldFirst, on the other hand, does not charge a transaction fee, and the exchange rates are much more competitive than traditional banks; averaging between 1.51% of the total amount transferred for small values (€1,000) and 0.82% for larger values (€100,000).
When comparing WorldFirst to other specialised currency transfer services, it stands up quite well, especially for larger amounts. While currency services such as TransferWise and CurrencyFair don’t take a margin on the value of the transfer, and rather they provide their customers with the mid-market rate, they do charge a larger fee to compensate; amounting to approximately 0.50% of the transfer value. While WorldFirst’s rates aren’t quite as competitive, it does have a large selection of currencies and an ability to facilitate higher transfer values than many consumer-focused services.
As a case study, let’s compare WorldFirst against its competitors when transferring Euro (EUR) into Australian Dollars (AUD):
|wdt_ID||Service||€ 1,000||€ 10,000||€ 100,000||Ave. cost||Review|
|1||Mid-market rate||1,559||15,590||155,900||0.00 %|
|2||Typical bank||1,456||14,785||148,080||5.59 %|
|4||TransferWise||1,547||15,489||155,074||0.63 %||Read review|
|5||CurrencyFair||1,551||15,509||155,090||0.51 %||Read review|
|6||OFX||1,533||15,418||154,910||1.12 %||Read review|
As you can see, there are certainly many benefits to using WorldFirst. With its ability to provide payments to hundreds of countries, it does provide excellent value, but may not always be the cheapest option. In addition, it should be noted that any transfer conducted via Swift can possibly incur additional hidden charges by correspondent banks; the amount depending on the amount of the transfer and the recipient’s bank.
The speed of an average transfer with WorldFirst depends on a couple of things, including the currency you’re sending, the size of the transaction, and the bank used. For the majority of currency pairings, you will need to allow between 2 – 4 days for the transferred funds to reach the recipient’s account.
Transfers involving more popular currency pairings may be completed even quicker. For example, transactions between EUR, GBP and USD are usually completed same-day; meaning that deposited funds should arrive in your recipient’s account the following business day.
What are the key features of WorldFirst’s online platform?
Spot contract. A spot contract consists of a single payment from one currency to another at the currently available exchange rate. If you need to send money right away, simply login to the WorldFirst website or app, and with a couple of clicks, a transfer can be arranged.
Recurring payment. If you need to transfer funds on a regular basis, a single payment can be scheduled as a regular recurring transaction. This allows any future payments to be direct debited automatically, providing a convenient solution to make better use of your time.
Currency forward contract. If you would like to lock in an exchange rate but aren’t quite ready to transfer, you can use a forward exchange contract. This allows you to confirm a specific rate for up to 12 months in the future, protecting you from unfavourable rate movements.
Market order. Limit orders allow you to set a target exchange rate that you would like to transact at in the near future. If and when your target rate is reached, WorldFirst will initiate the transfer of funds immediately.
In addition to the company’s headquarters in the United Kingdom, the company also has regional offices in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United States. This global footprint allows WorldFirst to provide local customer service during the standard business. WorldFirst can be contacted by phone or email.
+44 20 7801 9080 (UK)
+61 2 8298 4900 (AU)
+1 737 226 5240 (US)
In my experience, I found the customer service staff of WorldFirst to be friendly and helpful. I did not have to wait too long to speak with someone on the phone, and my queries by email have been answered in a prompt and professional manner.
Security and regulation
Is WorldFirst safe? Let’s take a look at the various systems and procedures the company adopts to ensure the security of its customers.
Government regulated. As WorldFirst is headquartered in the United Kingdom, the company is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and licensed as an Electronic Money Institution under reference 900508. The subsidiaries of WorldFirst are also regulated by the relevant authorities in the jurisdiction of their international operations, such as ASIC in Australia and the FinCEN in the United States.
Customer funds held on trust. In accordance with the standards imposed by government regulators, the funds of WorldFirst’s customers are held in segregated accounts and are therefore kept completely separate from the company’s own operating accounts. This ensures the security of customer funds, should WorldFirst encounter financial difficulties.
Website security. The WorldFirst website is protected with TLS encryption, which prevents sensitive data from being intercepted during your visit. You can confirm that this is in place by recognising a green padlock next to the website’s URL on your browser. Additionally, WorldFirst has implemented a range of security features such as secret questions.
Can you trust WorldFirst? Let’s take a look at look at the company’s reputation.
Trustpilot. As of publication, WorldFirst has received 64 reviews on Trustpilot with an average rating of 2 out of 5 stars; representing a positive experience in only 40 percent of interactions with its customers. Here are some of my observations on the feedback posted:
- Helpful customer service
- Very good exchange rates
- Appears to be many happy repeat customers
- The registration process and ID verification can be tedious
- Actual rates cannot be viewed until after registration
To be fair, it seems as if much of the negative feedback on Trustpilot is from potential customers, rather than actual customers. It appears that a few people were turned away by WorldFirst for compliance reasons, meaning that they did not complete the registration process or pass the Know Your Customer (KYC) check. This doesn’t necessarily mean there is not any truth to the claims, however, before making a judgement on the basis of these Trustpilot ratings, I would suggest delving deeper into the core issues.
It is worth noting that WorldFirst also collects customer reviews on Feefo, however, I do not suggest on relying on Feefo reviews alone. Whilst Feefo reviews are collected from confirmed customers of the company, in my opinion, their collection is not adequately separated from the influence of the reviewed company itself.
Social media. Upon viewing the Facebook and Twitter feeds of WorldFirst, we can see that its staff reply within a couple of days to any query raised on any of these platforms. Due to the size of WorldFirst, the social media team is quite active in publishing news and market updates, which could be very useful for those making regular payments.
Hi Marc, I’m so sorry for the inconvenience. We’re looking into this now and someone will get back to you asap. Thanks, Renny
— World First UK (@WorldFirstUK) September 26, 2017
Mainstream media. As for the mainstream media, WorldFirst does not have too much vanity coverage, as they are already a well-established company. Much of the reporting completed by large media outlets related to the company releasing new features for online sellers, and commentary on foreign exchange markets. They have also won several awards, ranging from strong growth in international markets to being a good place to work.
WorldFirst is one of Europe’s fastest-growing financial technology companies. Financial Times
Winner, Coolest Companies in Finance 2016. JobAdvisor
Sunday Times Fast Track 100, 2017. Fast Track
Design. The WorldFirst website has been designed thoughtfully, with special attention being paid to user experience and functionality. It is available to be viewed in 6 languages, including English, French, Dutch, Japanese, as well as both Mandarin and Cantonese dialects of Chinese. In addition to its online platform, WorldFirst has also developed mobile apps for both Apple and Android devices
Registration. The sign-up process is relatively straight-forward, taking only a couple of minutes longer than a typical consumer-grade service. You begin by entering your region name and email, before providing other essential contact information. The entire process takes around 10 minutes.
Identification. Before you are able to commence transferring funds, you first need to provide proof of identification so WorldFirst can verify your account. Two documents are required; one proving your identity, such as a passport or drivers licence, and one proving your address, such as a bank or utility statement.
How does WorldFirst work?
To familiarise you with the WorldFirst service, I’ll take you through a transaction I completed with them recently. If you need some guidance in navigating your own account, you can follow along.
Step 1. Visit worldfirst.com and log in. Once you have entered the WorldFirst online platform, you are greeted with an informative interface. The dashboard allows you to navigate to and view various details about your account. To begin a transfer, click Make a Transfer. Alternatively, you can enter some basic information into the quick quote widget and click Continue.
Step 2. Select the currencies involved and indicate if you intend on making more than one payment.
Step 3. Enter the amount of either the originating or the recipient’s currency denomination. If you’re making more than one payment, the details of these transactions can be added a the bottom of the screen.
Step 4. To continue, advise WorldFirst of the source of your funds, the payment method, and if the funds are coming from a bank account in your own name.
Step 5. Select the date that you wish for the payment to leave WorldFirst for your recipient, once WorldFirst has received the originating currency in their local account. In this example, I am able to select a date up to 7 days after the transaction is booked. I elect for the funds to be paid as soon as possible and then click Get Exchange Rate to move to the final screen.
Step 6. The specific terms of the quote are clearly outlined, including the exchange rate and fees applicable. Once you are sure you want to finalise the payment, click Accept Rate & Book Transaction.
After your transaction is complete, you are provided with a confirmation and instructions to proceed with your part of the payment to WorldFirst’s local account.
Once your funds have been received by WorldFirst in their local account, they will process the transfer to your recipient. You can track your transfer online, and you will also be provided with email updates as the payment moves through the system.
All done! Finally, once the transfer has been completed, its status will be updated accordingly and the payment will be reflected in your recipient’s account shortly.
In my experience, the WorldFirst online platform was simple to use and I was satisfied with the instructions provided to me along the way. The entire process took 2 business days and the funds arrived into my recipient account as requested.
Conclusion and final thoughts
WorldFirst provides a reliable service for cross-border payments. Competitive rates, advance foreign exchange tools, and international offices on many continents, allow the company to provide a consistent service to its customers. It compares reasonably well to full-service brokers such as OFX and TorFX but doesn’t quite match the refined processes of HiFX and the low rates of more consumer-orientated services such as TransferWise and CurrencyFair.
While the company uses the Swift network to increase the reach of its deliverable countries, this does have an obvious downside; in that, some transactions may incur unexpected transaction costs, and that the full amount of the transfer will not always be received by the recipient. Nevertheless, in my experience I found WorldFirst to be an efficient and effective service for sending funds abroad, and its suite of advanced functionality will be of great use to experienced users.
If you have any questions, queries or feedback, let me know in the comments below.