Updated: Apr 14
TransferWise, synonymous with cheap and easy international money transfers for so many of its customers, has renamed itself, dropping ‘transfer’ from its name meaning TransferWise is now simply Wise.
A couple of weeks ago, Kristo Käärmann, published a blog article on TransferWise’s website titled: ‘World, meet Wise’, announcing the company’s intentions to rebrand its product. This move surprised many commentators, especially considering the firm’s intention to file an IPO in the near future.
Wise’s decision marks a shift towards an expanded portfolio. Wise now offers an international currency account, a business account and a platform that allows customers who have fintech accounts to transfer money internationally. It’s consumer and business products, along with the newly unveiled debit card, makes Wise start to resemble a challenger bank like the likes of Monzo or Revolut.
“We’ve evolved to fix more than just money transfer … Wise is for all of us who live, work, travel, or support family around the world. It’s for those of us who want to cut out the middlemen that hold us back from being truly borderless.”
– Kristo Käärmann, Co-Founder and CEO
The change comes with a different logo: the typography is bigger, bolder and more modern. However, Wise has kept the same icon, a blue flag, to symbolise, in their words, “money without borders”. Käärmann tells us customers might also see new colours, words and designs.
Why does a name matter?
A name change is a huge challenge for companies to pull off and there are many examples of name changes backfiring. It is possible to pull off such a communication challenge (see Monzo), but this often occurs when the company is still fairly small. Wise currently processes 4.5 billion pounds in cross-border transactions every month, has 10 million customers and was recently valued at 5 billion dollars – it is hardly a small company.
This is because renaming comes with various challenges: customers and employees may be put off and there are issues relating to SEO, purchasing new domain names and obtaining new usernames on social media. It is a huge undertaking not only for marketing teams but for the company as a whole. Logos need to be redesigned, apps recoded, employees retrained.
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There are ways to make this a simpler process and to give credit where its due, Wise has done a stellar job. Firstly, it’s important to communicate with your customers and Kristo Käärmann did just that. Wise’s blog post outlines the reasoning behind their decision and acts as a one stop shop for any customer questioning the change.
Additionally, keeping their own domain name was a smart move. It allows customers who are not aware of the change to easily access the product even if they don’t know about the rebranding process. However, when you access their old website the reasoning behind the change isn’t evident right away. By failing to link to the article in the banner on its old domain, Wise is missing out on an opportunity to win skeptical customers over.
How do fintech start-ups avoid outgrowing their name?
Choosing a name that isn’t specific to a product or an era is crucial for a company’s long-term success. This ensures the company doesn’t outgrow its name as it develops throughout the years and expands its product line. With this in mind, the name ‘TransferWise’ may have been, retrospectively, short-sighted, as it defined the company solely through its money transferring services and didn’t give it room to grow beyond that.
Wise may indeed have had to rename the company after expanding its services, but this only proves why it is crucial start-ups think carefully about their names before starting their operations.
It is unlikely Wise won’t suffer from the difficulties associated with such radical rebranding, but it may have been part of necessary growing pains. It is, however, a particularly risky move considering Wise’s expected IPO later this year. Time will only tell if they will be able to pull it off.