Hong Kong’s virtual bank ZA Bank and United Kingdom-based financial technology firm Wise has jointly announced a partnership on Wednesday to offer low-cost and quick international money transfers to Hongkongers. 

This partnership marks two firsts: ZA Bank becoming the first bank in Hong Kong to provide international money transfers with no exchange rate mark-ups or hidden fees, as well as Wise Platform’s launch in Hong Kong with ZA Bank as its first neo-bank partner in East Asia, both parties said in a statement.

Powered by Wise Platform, Wise’s infrastructure offering for banks and non-banks alike, ZA Bank users will soon be able to make cheap, fast and transparent international money transfers from HKD to 14 currencies, including AUD, USD, GBP, CAD, SGD and more.

According to the statement, the conventional way of sending money abroad through traditional financial institutions typically involves high charges and hidden fees, and most people are unaware of the actual costs until after the transaction is completed due to lack of transparency around fee structures.

Cited an earlier study, it found that a whopping 86 percent of Hong Kong respondents could not identify the true cost of sending money abroad — which is often both the upfront transaction fee and the markup in the exchange rate.

“We are delighted to partner with Wise, the United Kingdom-listed global tech company specialised in cross-border transactions, and become its first Hong Kong banking partner to launch this splendid experience,” said Calvin Ng, Alternate Chief Executive and Co-Head of Retail Banking at ZA Bank.

“We always understand that high fees and low transparency are users’ common pain points in remittance. As the industry game changer, we successfully tackle these problems and now offer a hassle-free service to users, without worrying about any foreign exchagne markup, hidden charges and transfer progress,

“We believe that the combined strengths of ZA Bank and Wise will bring users unrivalled service and convenience. We are looking forward to enriching our offerings in the era of ‘Banking 2.0’,” he added.

Wise Platform Regional Head Vinay Palathinkal said bringing Wise Platform to Hong Kong takes the group another step closer to achieving its mission of making moving money faster, cheaper and more transparent for everyone, everywhere.

“We’re thrilled to have ZA Bank onboard as our first partner in Hong Kong, which would enable millions of more Hongkongers access faster, cheaper international transfers from HKD,” he said.

“Though an email can travel around the world in a matter of seconds, moving money internationally is still incredibly cumbersome, slow and expensive,

“Wise and ZA Bank have a shared vision to change the status quo and provide a fairer, more transparent banking experience for everyone,” he added.

Wise Platform lets businesses, banks and other financial institutions integrate the magic of Wise right into their own platforms via the Wise API to offer cheaper, faster, easier payments to their own customers.

Globally, Wise Platform is live with more than 50 bank and non-bank partners across the world, including Monzo in the UK, N26 in Germany, Shinhan Bank in South Korea and Aspire in Singapore.

Co-founded by Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann, Wise launched in 2011 under its original name TransferWise. It is one of the world’s fastest growing, profitable tech companies and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Currently, 13 million people and businesses use Wise, which processes over £9 billion ($10.72 billion) in cross-border transactions every month, saving customers over £1 billion ($1.19 billion) a year.

Licensed by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, ZA Bank is one of the first batch of virtual banks in Hong Kong. On March 24, 2020, ZA Bank officially launched its services to the public, making it the first fully-operating virtual bank in Hong Kong.

Based on market data as of June 30, 2022, ZA Bank has gained the support of more than 600,000 users, becoming the largest virtual bank in terms of user base in Hong Kong with a leading position in the virtual banking industry in terms of customer deposits and loans & advances.

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