Virgin, PayPal execs back disruptive fintech firm expanding in Tampa with 250 jobs

November 12, 2015

A London-based financial technology firm that’s growing rapidly in Europe has established an operations center in Tampa and plans to hire 250 people to staff it over the next three years.
The company, TransferWise, already has about 50 employees at its new Americas Operations Center at 4012 Gunn Highway, and will work with CareerSource TampaBay on recruiting, screening and on-the-job training.
The move puts Tampa squarely in the midst of disruption in the financial services industry. Google Wallet offers peer-to-peer payment options that bypass banks, as theNew York Times recently reported. Apple reportedly is considering a similar service,although in a partnership with banks, the International Business Time s reported. TransferWise has a similar business model, offering peer-to-peer money transfers.
TransferWise helps people transfer money across borders. It matches customers with complementary money conversion needs — for instance, for a customer in the United States transferring money to the United Kingdom, TransferWise will find a customer moving an equivalent amount from the U.K. to the U.S. The company matches them and facilitates the payments, and takes a small percentage of the cost as a fee. TransferWise’s fee is on average eight times cheaper than a bank, according to spokesman Michael Goodbody.
“There’s a shift happening in finance. People are not using their bank exclusively for products and services. They’re looking for a better product or service and that’s what we offer,” Goodbody said.
TransferWise was co-founded in 2011 by Taavet Hinrikus, the first employee of Skype, and Kristo Käärmann, and since has grown to 400 employees. The co-founders have raised more than $90 million from investors.
Financial backers include Vikram Pandit, the former CEO of Citigroup, who told the Wall Street Journal that TransferWise is “ squarely in the middle of the trends we think are right and the trends that are driving financial services.” Pandit was part of a $58 million funding round led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz; Ben Horowitz, a partner with the VC firm, has joined the TransferWise board.
Other investors include Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, and Richard Branson, chairman, president and CEO, Virgin Group.
The selection of Tampa for an operations center reinforces the city’s reputation as an ideal location for innovative financial technology companies, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a statement.
Financial firms such as Depository Trust & Clearing Corp., USAA and JPMorgan Chase have major back-office operations in Tampa, giving TransferWise a deep talent pool to tap. Equally important was the city’s eastern time zone location, allowing it to serve customers in Europe, Goodbody said.
The Tampa center will provide operations, customer service and verification, Goodbody said.
Enterprise Florida and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. helped the company establish its Tampa site, but the company did not receive any state or local tax incentives.
Margie ManningFinance EditorTampa Bay Business Journal