Innovations That Matter

Peer-to-peer currency exchange puts users in control

Financial Services

Currency exchange is a function that has long been dominated by banks with high international transfer fees, but a new Irish site hopes to change all that. CurrencyFair is a fully regulated online marketplace that lets ordinary people exchange currencies with other people anonymously, at rates typically available only to multinationals and market professionals. Users of CurrencyFair can choose to exchange their currency on the spot, selecting from multiple competing market-beating rates, or they can offer up their own rate and wait for someone else to match it. Either way, the site works on the barter principle whereby an exchange is made only when it benefits both sides. In general, CurrencyFair says rates approach or even beat the Interbank Rate, which is the price financial institutions charge each other. All funds are received and paid out via Electronic Bank Transfer, so no physical notes are involved. Fourteen currencies are currently tradeable on the site, including the British Pound, the Euro, Krona, Zloty, and U.S., Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore Dollars. Middlemen have already taken a beating in so many areas at the hands of peer-to-peer sites — to the considerable benefit of consumers — so it’s no great surprise to see the same phenomenon come to currency exchange. What markets remain ripe for a dose of peer-to-peer innovation? (Related: P2P lending arrives down underPeer-to-peer student loans.) Spotted by: Zachary Love



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