The world made of simple blue line, with various money logos to the left side

As the landscape of a post-pandemic world becomes clearer, mergers & acquisitions are starting to pick up.

For instance, PayPal, Pfizer, and Zoom are just a few companies that have completed multi-billion dollar deals recently. There’s also been a flurry of IPO activity, as numerous startups look to cash in on their recent successes.

The biggest so far has been the Wise IPO. In July 2021, one of the world’s largest private money transfer firms went public, achieving a market valuation of 11 billion USD (8 billion GBP).

And as we move into Q4 2021, more firms in the international money transfer industry are set to add to the fireworks. Since August 2020, money transfer giant Western Union has been open about acquiring smaller international money transfer companies. The IPO front may be active as well, with Remitly setting its IPO terms recently.

Overall, though, the industry is about to get less crowded.

Recent Consolidations a Continuation of an Ongoing Trend

Acquisitions of international money transfer companies aren’t anything new in international business. While the industry has exploded in size throughout the 2010s, larger concerns have absorbed smaller firms during this period.

Euronet is a prime example of this. Throughout the 2010s, this corporation has been one of the highest-profile buyers in the international payments space. In May 2014, they acquired HiFX, a well-established payments provider in the UK.

And a year later, they made an even bigger splash by purchasing XE, one of the internet’s top currency exchange authorities. Lastly, in 2019, Euronet took HiFX’s foreign exchange tools and folded them into XE, turning the brand into an even more powerful force on the FX scene.

Mergers and acquisitions will only pick up momentum moving forward. With global interdependence greater than it ever has been, demand for international payments will only grow. But at the same time, this increasingly crowded market will make it harder for smaller firms to stand out.

These two trends will motivate larger firms to grow via M&As, and smaller firms to sell.

Expect a Wave of Money Transfer IPOs in 2021

The Wise IPO may have stolen all the headlines, but they’re far from the first money transfer operator to go public.

Now, everybody already knows about Western Union and Moneygram. But these firms, who have more than a century of existence between them, are part of the financial establishment. In other words, they charge fees that make them largely indistinguishable from the banks.

Meanwhile, the new generation of international money transfer companies is starting to come of age. For example, OFX, an Australia-based firm, started trading back in 1998. Then, in 2013, they launched their IPO, offering shares on the Australian Securities Exchange.

World First, a money transfer provider now owned by Chinese-controlled Ant Financial, was almost part of a massive IPO last year. However, those plans were put on ice by government regulators after CEO Jack Ma criticized Chinese Communist Party officials.

Despite that setback, though, the 2020s are looking ripe for IPOs. Just as with increasing M&A activity, increasing global interdependence is creating a fertile marketplace for well-built international money transfer companies.

So, who should we expect to get in on the action? Of all the firms out there, Moneycorp and Currencies Direct are prime candidates, and are owned by a pair of private equity firms – The Bridgepoint Group and Corsair Capital, respectively.

If Remitly does well in their impending IPO, these firms will be more inclined to get in on the feeding frenzy. Both Moneycorp and Currencies Direct have served millions of customers since the 1990s. If they go public, we won’t be shocked if both achieve eight to nine-figure valuations.

Money Transfer is Becoming an Extremely Competitive Space

Money transfer firms that aren’t Wise are starting to feel the heat. As bigger international money transfer companies increase their presence in the marketplace and smaller startups crowd it, profit potential is shrinking.

For smaller international money transfer companies, it’s not enough to move money these days. If they don’t excel in a specific international payments sub-niche, bigger players will consign them to an ever-shrinking slice of market share. That was the reality HiFX faced before EuroNet acquired and merged them with XE.

Through HiFX’s 20-year track record of providing excellent service, they demonstrated their worth to the international business community. Now, their technology forms the backbone of XE Money Transfer.

Or take WorldRemit as another example. An upstart in the cash agent remittance space, this firm offers massive savings on fees and vastly better customer service in developing countries.

Then, there are the white-label money transfer operations. Taking advantage of ready-made infrastructure offers by giants like Moneycorp, media organizations like CNN and the Guardian now offer their readers international payments and transfers.

All this is putting pressure on smaller startups to diversify their specialties further. But, unfortunately, the odds of becoming a Wise is getting narrower by the day. So instead, up-and-comers will enjoy better results by becoming good at a specific aspect of the money transfer process.

The Long-Term Bull Case for International Money Transfers

But despite ramped-up competition, the outlook for the international payments industry looks bright. Observers shouldn’t allow the pandemic to cloud their vision – despite vast reductions in travel, the international business world is more interdependent than ever.

The genie is out of the bottle. The world’s manufacturing infrastructure has mostly moved offshore, and it’s staying there. At the end of the day, massive cost savings will overrule populist rhetoric. Why make goods at home when you can spend a tenth on labor by going offshore?

Even with increased shipping costs (and occasional quality issues), the savings offered by offshore workers is immense. So as online business and e-commerce continue to grow, demand for overseas vendors will increase in lockstep. And as it does, so will the demand for affordable international payments and money transfers.

This growth in international prosperity is also driving an increase in travel. In many countries, the middle class is expanding, and as it does, they’re going on vacations abroad. People in developed countries are also travelling more, as growth in low-cost carriers is driving airfares downward. Of course, before these folks cross borders, they’ll want travel cash at a better rate than their banks are giving them.

And as wealthier travellers head abroad more, they are getting more interested in overseas real estate. With politics growing unstable and remote work being easier to perform abroad than ever before, having a second home in a second country is becoming increasingly desirable.

Once the international business community works out the kinks of living in a COVID-endemic world, these trends will drive the international money transfer industry to new heights.

What’s the Near-Term Outlook for Money Transfer IPOs/M&As?

With the above trends in mind, what can we expect to see in the short term for IPO and M&A activity? As mentioned earlier, Remitly Global is the next high-profile international money transfer firm likely to go public.

But apart from them, no other money transfer provider has thrown their hat into the IPO ring. As stated earlier, though, international money transfer companies like Moneycorp and Currencies Direct are well-positioned to go public, should they choose to do so.

What about M&As? For the past year, Revolut has openly stated that it has intentions to buy smaller international money transfer companies that could complement its operations. But while they have hired staff with experience in M&As, they have yet to pull the trigger on any moves.

Perhaps there is still a bit of international business uncertainty due to global Delta outbreaks. But as vaccinations pick up steam and the current COVID waves subside, it’s likely IPO/M&A activity will pick up further.

The Globally Mobile Need Money Transfer Solutions

There’s no going back. Despite the hiatus of the past couple of years, the world remains an internationalized place. And, as the world slowly emerges from this pandemic, money inflows and outflows between nations will only pick up speed.

As they do, travellers, international business owners, and everyday people will be looking for cost-effective money transfer solutions. Because of this, there is plenty of cash to be made by pursuing IPOs, acquisitions, and mergers. We’re bullish on activity in this area.