Anna Hibino, Banking and Expansions Manager for MEA
Wise has a really interesting mission, and it’s truly embedded into the way every team works. In Banking and Expansions, we work closely with Product, Compliance, Analytics and so many other teams, to make sure we’re entering new markets sustainably.
In a nutshell, what do you do at Wise?
I work in the Banking and Expansions team, more specifically on the MEA (Middle East and Africa) markets. I’ve always been in this team, but the markets I look after have shifted — my first region was actually Asia Pacific. So I worked in markets like Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and New Zealand.
What attracted you to a Banking and Expansions position at Wise?
I actually started off my career in the cross-border payments space — on the FX trading floor at a bank. I’ve been a Wise user for some time, and the product along with the mission sounded really innovative. I was working for a German startup at the time and looking for a new opportunity and happened upon Wise’s careers page, where there was a job ad up for a Japanese-speaker. And I just thought to myself — match made in heaven.
What’s been the most interesting expansion you’ve worked on so far?
Japan was a really interesting one. When I joined, Wise users could only send money to and from Japan, but the goal was to launch our Multi-Currency Account and debit card there, too. Japan is such a different market in terms of how they manage money and how their card schemes are set up. It was a big challenge figuring out how to explain our product to the regulator, and working with compliance officers to get our approval across the line.
I also had the opportunity to hire and lead someone in Japan to work with me, which was a great experience.
Asian markets are super interesting, because often the local regulations are quite particular and of course differ in each country, plus there’s so much growth in the region. So it’s really a cross-team effort between Banking, Product, Analytics, Compliance, Legal and so many more, to make sure we expand to new markets in the most cost-effective way. We also work together to try and get past different currency and money flow restrictions.
How do you work together with all those teams to make an expansion happen?
When choosing new markets, we first think about the need for our product — for this we always take into account our Wishes function, where everyone can submit currency routes they’d need Wise on. We look into existing solutions, and how our offering fits in there. There are so many things to consider here: how much money can we save to our customers in that market based on the volume we’re expecting them to transfer, how much company capital is needed for establishing a local entity, how many people need to be hired on the ground into that new entity, and so on.
A lot of the time this research brings up unexpected costs to do with various regulatory requirements. We really need to think hard about these costs, because eventually, Wise’s mission is to bring down costs for customers. This is the type of work we get started on with multiple teams.
Once we’ve done our research and it’s time to reach out to local regulators, that’s where I go in alone to start applying for a new license while keeping Compliance updated. Later on in the licensing process, I’ll bring in specialists from other teams to answer any more specific questions about our product.
Our legal team will help me negotiate the best terms for contracts, and once we have a license agreement, I’ll once again pull in a regional Product Manager. Together we’ll start looking into more specific things like making sure the operational teams have everything they need to get started on processing payments, and we have enough language skills in the operational and customer support teams, and so on.
And once we have the license, the upkeep of that is then handed over to our Compliance team.
What’s your team’s fun tradition?
We always try to celebrate some of our biggest expansions together with the wider team. For example, for the Japanese launch we hosted a green debit card themed event at our Singapore office. It was really cool, we even served bright green cupcakes.
We also host a sort of team off-site where the whole team gets together about twice a year. We might be one of the most international teams at Wise, and we have people working from so many different locations that it’s quite difficult to get us together. Especially now over Zoom, it’s really hard to find a fitting time zone for us all.