EDBI-Backed Singapore Fintech Startup Thunes Wants To Take On SWIFT

After seven years of addressing the challenges in cross-border payments for businesses, Singapore-based startup Thunes is now setting its sights on a grander ambition—to challenge the hegemony of SWIFT, the world’s dominant international financial network. In a video interview, Thunes CEO Peter De Caluwe envisions a future where treasurers and CFOs say, “I wire you with Thunes” instead of “I wire you with SWIFT.”

Thunes is emboldened in its aspirations, having recently secured $72 million in funding over the past two months. The funding comes from notable players such as Visa, Singaporean government investment entity EDBI, U.S.-based Endeavor Catalyst, and U.K. hedge fund Marshall Wace. This successful Series C round, concluded last month, brought Thunes’ total raised capital to $202 million and elevated its valuation to $900 million.

Unlike SWIFT, which predominantly covers the banking network, Thunes’ reach extends to 132 countries encompassing 4 billion bank accounts and 3 billion mobile wallets. Many of the markets Thunes serves are emerging economies with significant unbanked populations, including India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. With its proprietary money-moving infrastructure, Thunes boasts a cost reduction of up to 90% compared to SWIFT transfers and manages to settle most transactions within 30 minutes. Among its prominent clients are fintech giants PayPal and Revolut, Southeast Asian ride-hailing and delivery behemoth Grab, the Commercial Bank of Dubai, and Africa’s popular mobile money platform M-Pesa.

Paul Ng, CEO of EDBI, recognizes Thunes’ potential and growth trajectory, stating that it serves as a vital cross-border payments leader for businesses. Ng applauds Thunes for being based in Singapore and fostering its growth from there. Buoyed by this fresh infusion of funds, Thunes is now amplifying its presence in China, the world’s largest mobile payments market. The company partnered with Tencent in November, enabling money transfers to users of the Chinese tech giant’s WeChat superapp. With a recently established Chinese subsidiary, Thunes is actively seeking local licenses and plans to expand its team in China.

De Caluwe views China as a colossal hub for various goods and services, making it an attractive avenue for growth. He anticipates significant expansion coming out of China, given the sheer scale of opportunities it presents. Currently, Thunes’ transaction volume is a fraction of SWIFT’s. As of June, Thunes has processed $50 billion in transactions since its inception in 2016 (it spun off from Singapore payments company TransferTo in 2019), while SWIFT handles trillions of dollars daily. Additionally, Thunes powers international payments for about 700 businesses, a number dwarfed by the 11,500 financial institutions that utilize SWIFT.

An EY report predicts that cross-border payment volume will reach $200 trillion by 2027, with most of the share originating from wholesale business-to-business transactions. The report also forecasts global digital wallet spending to surpass $10 trillion by 2025.

De Caluwe foresees Thunes processing $20 billion to $25 billion in the next year and expects annual transactions to grow between 50% to 75% annually over the next decade. Currently prioritizing expansion across its 10 regional offices, spanning Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, Thunes is yet to reach profitability.

De Caluwe underscores the colossal potential in the cross-border payments market, expressing that Thunes is only scratching the surface. The company aims to refine its processes, technology, and scalability while focusing on onboarding new customers to continue its strong performance in the realm of cross-border payments.

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