Shachar Bialick

Should we thank Brexit for ‘borderless banking’?

Should we thank Brexit for 'borderless banking'?
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From Brexit and Grexit to Trump and Scottish (near) independence, the way we think about our place in the world is changing. In the UK and further afield these issues have shone a light on the fact that we live in a global, multicultural melting pot - with ties to friends, family and colleagues around the planet.

The way we manage our money is changing, too. Regulation, rebuilding trust, teenage hackers and woefully outdated technology have kept our favourite high street banks busy recently. You probably haven’t ditched your current account yet or tried out a new alternative like Starling or Atom Bank, but you might soon. After no new banks for 100 years, dozens have appeared since 2010. Some may lose funding, trip up on compliance in the early days or even fail, but they’ve done a great job of highlighting our specific needs when it comes to money - like better banking apps or cutting out fees on spending abroad - and offering an alternative.

Enter ‘borderless banking’. Frequency of international travel is rising, making cross-border banking a particularly popular area for innovation. But, alongside this, the recent Brexit vote created a wave of uncertainty for UK residents with ties to continental Europe - they need to know they can access affordable banking services, whether they are in the UK, Europe or elsewhere. So it’s no coincidence that two new options opened their digital doors last month, aiming to make it easier for past and future UK residents to access universal banking services around Europe.

TransferWise, the successful British start-up controversially migrating its HQ away from the UK after Brexit, is one of these new choices. In May it announced a new ‘business without borders’ account, allowing companies to manage their money in multiple countries without FX fees. It will soon make the account available to consumers, Meanwhile, Ipagoo - a bank ‘designed for the 21st Century’ - lets customers open an account and set multiple countries as ‘home’. For £5 a month, you can hold the same account in different countries as if you are a primary resident in each, making an international lifestyle simpler.

Among other advantages, these new services offer a key benefit: no extortionate, hidden fees for holding, transferring or spending money in different currencies. Anyone who has used their regular bank card on holiday can imagine how quickly those fees would rack up if regularly moving between countries or managing money with family abroad.

Of course, these new services aren’t for everyone. If you rarely travel and most of your family is UK-based, there is minimal benefit. But as the division over Brexit has shown, these types of services will benefit a significant proportion of UK residents. And for those looking to save when spending on holiday, a whole range of products now cater to that, including FairFX, Caxton FX and WeSwap, as well as my business, Curve.

All in all, these new borderless banks are good news - and an unexpected, positive after-effect of the UK’s pending exit from the European Union. So you might well worry about your place in the EU after 2019, but you won’t need to worry about your banking - it’ll be borderless.

Shachar Bialick, chief executive of Curve