Seamless partner collaboration vital to Airwallex growth

April 20, 2022 | The Sydney Morning Herald | Portfolio
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Airwallex is fast becoming a household name, and not just in cross border payments, it’s first métier, but across so many of the vital services businesses need.
The fintech has grown exponentially in every market it has entered since it launched in 2015 and is now valued at $US5.5 billion. Even among a slew of exciting Australian fast-growing ventures, this is a business that is really going places.
An extraordinary transformation
Craig Rees is Airwallex’s senior vice president, global head of platform. He explains how the business has diversified its offering since inception.
“We help organisations do business and grow globally,” says Rees.
“Through the pandemic, many of our customers have moved beyond their borders in terms of how they support customers and generate revenue. We assist them to collect revenue from their customers around the world, pay staff and suppliers and manage expenses and payroll. And that’s just one part of our business.”
Stake is a great example of a customer Airwallex supports with its suite of small business services. The wealth tech disrupter pioneered zero brokerage US share trading for Aussie customers and has recently broadened its offering to include low cost ASX share trading and easy-to-administer self-managed super funds.
Key to Airwallex’s success is its relationships with thousands of industry partners. Airwallex has just announced a new deal with Qantas, which is building a financial services solution for its Business Rewards members using the payments leader’s infrastructure.
Since their inception, Airwallex has relied on collaboration platform, Slack, and its external communication function, Slack Connect, to work seamlessly with third parties. The company sees it as a powerful way to build relationships with vendors, partners, and customers.
“We set up Slack Connect even before we sign a contract with a partner. Once we get to the point of designing a solution, we establish a channel and invite different teams into it, which helps our customers and partners feel a much stronger connection to the Airwallex team.”
Since Slack channels are searchable, it’s easy for the team to find the messages, files, channels and people that they need.
For larger and more complex partnerships, Airwallex uses internal announcement channels where the team shares big news items, launches and questions that are relevant to the entire group. Outside of the partnerships team, other Airwallex functions also leverage Slack Connect to iterate with critical vendors.

Jumping hurdles

With more than 1,200 staff across 19 major locations, a central challenge for Airwallex is communicating across the organisation, with suppliers, vendors and customers located across the world.
“We couldn’t just jump on a plane to see everyone over the last two years. Zoom has been great - what would we have done without it?” says Rees.
“But it can be challenging trying to organise people from the US, Europe and Asia to get together on a call at the same time. So, as we’ve grown globally, we’ve tried to move to a more asynchronous communication setup,” Rees explains.
This approach lends itself to Slack, which supports multiple stakeholders within Airwallex to effectively communicate, collaborate and achieve results, no matter where they are located.
“We wanted to move away from infinite Zoom meetings, so people can work in their own time zones and in their own way,” Rees says.
Importantly, Slack supports Airwallex’s impressive growth trajectory. “With a global team, it’s not realistic to have a catch up at 9:00am every morning. Slack allows us to scale in a way so we can maximise our resources and support our team to achieve their full potential.”
“It’s really created efficiencies in how we communicate and allows us to work more effectively. I can check in first thing in the morning and use it throughout the day. It really helps us to move projects forward,” says Rees.

Eye to the future

Airwallex has Slack channels for exploring ideas, collaborating and solving problems, and also takes full advantage of the ability to integrate other software platforms and applications into Slack.
These integrations synchronise data and processes across internal platforms and allow the team to centralise their operations.
His advice for other businesses to get the most out of Slack is to implement simple guidelines at the start.
“You want to develop a shared understanding about how to use that channel – and how you use the channel changes overtime. During the implementation phase for a customer we use the channel to get really quick responses to questions where a time delay could have an impact on the launch date.”
“Post launch, you need different mechanisms and Slack becomes an escalation path. You have to agree on how to best use the medium with customers and partners.”
Airwallex continues to pursue ambitious goals and Rees says Slack will be instrumental to this. “We’ll evolve together as we conquer the world and beyond.”