Forex futurewill be in the cloud

Dublin fintech firm Cambrist is changing how foreign exchange is managed, writes Trish Dromey

Cambrist CEO Jacob Claflin; Blake Newman, head of product, and CTO Victor Mikhailov.

GOING live with its first customer this month, innovative Dublin-based fintech company Cambrist is proceeding with plans to disrupt the way foreign exchange is managed in the card payments industry.

The one-year-old start-up has been first to market with a cloud-based foreign exchange processing engine which connects banking payment products, such as credit cards and debit cards, to the wholesale foreign exchange marketplace.

“This offers banks more control over the foreign currency rates applied to their debit and credit cards, which means they can give more value to their customers when they travel and spend abroad,” said company co-founder and chief executive Jacob Claflin, who added that the rates being applied to foreign exchange payments on cards can be 1% higher than those available on wholesale markets. Earlier this month, PerfectCard DAC, a supplier of incentive and gift card solutions, which is Ireland’s first regulated non-bank financial institution, became the first customer for Cambrist’s multi- currency optimisation solution.

“We are now working with two Irish banks — we expect to go live with one of these later this year and with the second next year. By early next year we also expect to have signed at least one UK bank,” said Mr Claflin, adding that future plans include developing sales to financial services and banks, first in Europe and then in the Asia-Pacific region.

Aiming to establish Cambrist as a leading player in this space, Mr Claflin sees significant opportunities for the company in post-Brexit markets when banks come under pressure to increase profitability. Headquartered in Dun Laoghaire, with an office in Austin, Texas, Cambrist now employs a full-time staff of seven and expects this to grow to 10 or 12 by the end of this year.

Cambrist was set up in 2016 by Mr Claflin, Blake Newman and Victor Mikhailov, three Americans who previously worked for US-owned payment-processing company Rev Worldwide. While working out of Dublin, Mr Claflin identified a gap in the market for a foreign exchange processing solution for card payments. He considered London as a base for the new start-up but opted for Dublin, which he says provided “good start-up support and the opportunity to stand out and get more attention”.

Persuading his two co-founders to join him in the venture, he established Cambrist last June and signed up to participate in the New Frontiers Programme at Dublin Institute of Technology. The initial focus was on building the technology platform, holding discussions with banks and other card issuers in Ireland, as well as fundraising, said Mr Claflin, who raised funding through Angel investors in Europe last November.

By December, the multi-currency processing platform was ready for beta testing and Cambrist had secured recognition from Enterprise Ireland as a High Potential Start-Up.

“In February this year Enterprise Ireland provided matching funding,” said Mr Claflin, explaining that the company is fully funded for its plans to launch in the UK and Scandinavia next year. The launch with its first customer has been a major step for Cambrist.

Mr Claflin says they had to overcome “resistance to abandoning tradition” as “the banks we spoke to early on were excited about the solution but none wanted to be the first to sign up for it”.

As an innovative financial services company, PerfectCard DAC provided the perfect first customer for the company’s innovative solution, he says, adding that this is a significant reference site and will make the sales process easier in the future. As the first company to offer a commercial foreign exchange processing engine of this type, Mr Claflin expects to have a year to take advantage of being first-mover. By mid-2018 he says the company will consider looking for venture capital to fund further expansion. The revenue model used by Cambrist involves charging a small percentage of commission on the foreign exchange processed.


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