On the up · 15 July 2015

Fourex: Shaking up the world of foreign exchange

Oliver Du Toit and Jeff Paterson

Business Advice will be showcasing some of the brightest upcoming prospects in the business community – from those who are already making a big impact in a short space of time, to those who have an innovative idea just taking off. Kicking off our “On the up” slot is Fourex – a new company hoping to turnaround how the UK exchanges money.

The founders have already caught the eye of Richard Branson himself, winning the “New Things” category in Virgin Media’s Pitch to Rich competition and with a couple of big contracts unfolding this summer, Fourex is definitely one to keep an eye out for.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

Jeff Paterson and Oliver Du Toit, co-founders of Fourex, which is set to revolutionise the way the UK exchanges money. Fourex kiosks are able to accept unsorted coins and notes (that are both in and out of circulation) from over 150 currencies, and convert their value into either British pounds, euros, or US dollars. The software within the kiosks is able to process and evaluate each coin in a fraction of a second, distinguishing it from anything else found in the foreign exchange market, and offers undeniable value for money.

Unlike its competitors, Fourex is able to accept even the smallest denominations, and there are no hidden fees or commissions. This fills the huge gap in the market for the leftover coins and notes found in wallets and purses after holidays that no big company is willing to exchange. The exchange rates are updated daily in line with market trends, and are clearly displayed on their kiosks, enabling complete transparency. Customers also have the choice to donate part or all of their exchange to one of Fourex’s six charity partners – UNICEF, The Railway Children, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, The London Transport Museum, EllenorLions Hospice and the UK Stroke Association.

(2) How long have you been around for?

We have been developing the software for three years, and launch the first of our machines into several TfL London Underground stations in August this year.

(3) How will you make money? 

Our profit is made on the difference between the buy and the sell rate. We do not charge hidden fees or commissions. We don’t penalise you by charging different rates at different locations, nor do offer worse rates for low value transactions. Fourex passes on all savings made by having a smaller rental footprint and no staff costs directly onto the customer.

(4) What makes you different and why should someone take notice?

We have digitised currency exchange, removing all the reasons that coins and low value currency cannot be exchanged. We have opened up a massive market that is not being explored by the major players, providing a solution to a problem that affects nearly everybody that travels. By adding technology, we reduce costs, increase options and offer the customer a great solution.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

Figuring out how to identify one coin from another at an extremely high speed. After we had the technology nailed, we had to figure out where was the best location to launch it.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

The agreement with Transport for London. Millions of people are going to walk past our machines every day which is just incredible exposure.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

Where do we start? There are always hurdles along the way, but if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it! Securing funding for our business was a particular challenge. Our concept is completely different to anything out there, and traditional VCs and business angels all wanted us to prove our concept before jumping on board.

Everybody loved the idea, but couldn’t compare us to anything, so told us to come back once we had sufficient data to remove the risk. We therefore decided to crowdfund, and were just amazed at the response. Our idea clearly resonated with the general public, and within six days we had reached our target, eventually overfunding by 244 per cent in under two weeks.

(8) In five years’ time, we will be…

Doing exactly what we’re doing now. We love it.

(9) What one tip would you give to those starting out?

Don’t be afraid to fail. If and when you do succeed, you will look back on all the ideas that didn’t make it and realise your success is the accumulation of all the knowledge you gained from all those previous failures.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Both never gave up, despite being close to the wire on numerous occasions. Anyone who has achieved what they have, has found it tough but persevered.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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