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Flywire – For Global Citizens, High-Ticket, Cross-Border Payments Need Transparency And Simplicity

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Flywire is a leading provider of cross-border payment solutions. Mike Massaro joined the company in 2012 as head of sales and marketing, and was appointed CEO in December 2013. His background spans global payments, online account management, e-billing, and mobile software & hardware at high growth technology companies including CarrierIQ and edocs. Below is our recent interview with Mike:


Q: Mike, what is a global citizen and why is the cross-border payment process so important to them?

A: The ‘global citizen’ is different than the global consumer, who shops retailers anywhere in the world. The global citizen is more likely to invest globally — outside of their domestic market — in things like education for their children, in medical care for themselves and their families, real estate and a variety of other things that bring diversity and culture to their life experience.

All these things require large, cross-border payments, which are typically very complex, non-transparent, and fraught with challenges for both the payer and payee. These payments can be particularly stressful when dealing with important life events such as college education, health procedures or real estate. There’s a need for transparency and end-to-end visibility – so both parties involved understand the status and true costs involved.

Q: What are key drivers for Flywire’s clients?

A: Flywire processes billions in cross-border payments every year – one large transaction at a time, from consumers in one country to institutions in another. Speed is important, but it is not the only driver for participants in these transactions. The top priority is ensuring the payment gets to the institution on the other end – since that money is often to pay for their kid’s college tuition or the medical treatment of a loved one. The certainty of funds is also critical to the receiving institution – certainty that the amount owed is the amount received, along with the data that goes with it to reconcile their own ledgers. Trust becomes the overriding key factor. Flywire was built to deliver that certainty to consumers and institutions – a guaranteed service level that gives both parties confidence that the correct amount of money will end up where and when it needs to.

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Q: How has your platform evolved to keep current with new market opportunities including international healthcare patients market?

A: As Flywire’s ambition to serve global citizens expands, so has our platform. In late 2015, we expanded our focus to include the burgeoning international healthcare market and launched a new cross-border payment solution for patients traveling overseas for medical care. We expect to transform cross-border medical payments in much the same way we’ve done with cross-border tuition payments: providing speed, transparency, security, efficiency, and currency-agnostic payments and support services for patients, and easy reconciliation for the medical institutions.

Our initial focus is on the US. In April 2016, we signed an agreement to be the lead sponsor of the U.S. Cooperative for International Patient Programs (USCIPP). USCIPP is a non-profit membership organization comprised of over 60 U.S. academic medical centers, healthcare systems and hospitals operating in the international patient care arena including Boston Children’s Hospital, Philadelphia International Medicine, UPMC, Cook’s Children and other leading US hospitals. Flywire has since added eight more hospitals to its healthcare client roster.

Q: What does the Flywire for Healthcare payment platform offer for hospitals and their international patients?

A: Our goal is to provide everything the patient and hospital need to navigate the complexity involved in large, cross-border payments. For example, for international patients, the platform provides:

  • The ability to pay from 220 countries and territories, using their local payment vehicle of choice (bank transfer, credit/debit, etc.)
  • Discounted currency conversion rates that can offer significant savings when compared to FX rates offered by banks in their home countries
  • A safe, secure, easy-to-use online payment experience backed by 24/7 customer service in multiple languages and mobile/online delivery tracking

For care providers, it offers:

  • Automatic international patient bill notification and tracking
  • Online refunds on overpayments
  • A convenient online dashboard tracking the status of all payments, 24/7
  • Daily reconciliations that match each international payment to the appropriate patient/payer

Q: What are some of the key drivers resulting in growth in the international healthcare payment business?

A: There are several. For example, the emergence of the new “global citizen” demographic I mentioned earlier. Medical care is one of the prime spending areas for this segment. Industry groups estimate as much as $40 billion per year and growing at 15-25% per year.

Payment convenience is another factor. As international patient care becomes more commonplace, patients expect convenient, cost efficient and transparent options for payments. Easy, online access is an absolute must, as is the availability of familiar/local payment options. The ability to offer international patients familiar payment options in their local currency, using a simple web experience can be a significant differentiator in the patient experience.

Security is also really important. Patients need to know they are using a secure method that is recommended by the medical institution. Hospitals also have a vested interest here. The focus on fraud protection and stronger requirements for transparency and compliance are also driving demand. With ever-increasing terror threats and the focus on cutting-off financing sources for nefarious acts, large-sum cross-border payments are subject to much greater scrutiny.

There is also demand for related support services. With patients around the world making large sum payments from different time zones, the number and frequency of payment-related questions and inquiries will rise – at all hours and in a variety of languages. Hospitals are not equipped to be in that business.

Flywire takes care of all of these factors and more – so hospitals can focus on what they do best.

Q: Recently Flywire expanded its Asia presence into Japan. What motivated the move?

A: Japan is one of the key markets in Asia-Pac and an important part of our expansion plans there. The country has a sizable number of international students attending schools in the country and is making a concerted effort to recruit more. The country saw a 10 percent increase in 2014 and is on pace to reach 300,000 international students by 2020. The growth is coming from emerging markets like China, Vietnam and Nepal. Those three countries, in fact, represent more than 50 percent of the sources of international students in Japan.

Our existing relationships with banking partners in the region was also a consideration. Part of what we do that’s unique on the payments processing side is we already process payments from 220 countries and territories for any school that we have. Now that we have clients across 15 or 16 countries, the fact that we can collect in all those markets really makes the barrier to entry into a new market low for us.

Q: Flywire continues to grow organically as well. What milestones have you reached?

A: Flywire is on a great trajectory. In the last academic year, ending in June 2016, we processed more than $3 billion in tuition, room and board payments, more than double the previous year’s volume. We now serve more than 1,000 education institutions and hospitals and have 130 employees (and growing). In the past 12 months, Flywire expanded its footprint through the acquisition of two businesses, Uni-Pay (UK) in October 2015 and ScholarFx (Canada), in January 2016. In addition to our new location in Japan, we also expanded our operations in Boston (HQ) and Valencia, Spain. We’ll be announcing additional expansions locally and internationally later this year.

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