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How Travelex is exploiting proven data use cases to become a tech-savvy business

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels March 28, 2024
The foreign exchange specialist wants to develop data-led services for its customers.


Digital and business transformation matters, of course, but it can be complex and tricky.  Rather than working with bleeding edge emerging technology, Richard Wazacz, CEO at Travelex, wants the currency exchange provider to focus on using proven data use cases to solve its most pressing business challenges.

Travelex entered administration during the pandemic. Wazacz was appointed CEO in July 2022 following a debt restructuring initiative. His role now is to help the company grow:

The business is recovering strongly as travel recovers around the world. And we have an opportunity. We could either rebuild the business we had pre-pandemic, which wasn't very data-savvy and probably too focused on building technology. What we can do now is rebuild the business. And when you rebuild a business when it's had such a shock, there's an opportunity to do things in a better way.

One of the biggest opportunities, says Wazacz, is using data to improve operational processes and customer experiences. He says many of the problems the company faces aren’t complex. What’s crucial is using data to expose new opportunities:

The problems are things like how do we roster better, how do we position our proposition more effectively, and how do we use our data to better understand our customers’ behavior? Those are the sorts of things that we're looking at doing. 

The firm is using consultancy services from Mesh-AI that show how Travelex can make the most of its data in a self-sufficient way:

They laid out a roadmap that said, ‘Within six months, you should be able to do this yourselves. Then, if you do that, there's a next part and we can help you with that area. But then in 12 months, you should be able to do that work yourself.’ So, there’s a progression plan.

Exploiting data

Mesh-AI has helped Travelex establish a cloud-based data platform, with an initial focus on real-time performance reporting that helps drive sales. The cloud platform is now being extended across Travelex's digital services, including a mobile app and pre-paid cards. Wazacz says the aim is to help Travelex adopt a data-driven approach to business:

For me, it always goes back to what customer problem are we solving. So, one of the key areas we’re using data for is that we’re starting to promote a pre-paid card offering. You can walk into a store and you can walk out with a pre-paid MasterCard, attached to a digital wallet that you can top up whenever you want, use anywhere in the world, and we can give you that card in five minutes and show you how to use it.

The business will use data to explore how Travelex can develop other use cases, including across a new CRM platform that will help the company develop marketing campaigns.

A critical success factor in all this, argues Wazacz is a narrow project scope:

I don't believe in boiling the ocean...Keep it narrow and tight. Don't allow scope creep. Sponsor it hard. If you're going to make any sort of change, keep the drains in your business away – those are the naysayers threatened or scared by change. Protect it, champion it promote it, dedicate your best colleagues to it, and create the environment for people to be successful.

Becoming tech-savvy

When it comes to long-term digital transformation plans, Wazacz says it’s important to remember Travelex is not a technology company. The company needs to focus core business objectives, such as running shops, moving cash around the globe and developing customer insight, rather than developing IT systems:

I want us to become the most tech-savvy player in our space. But our core competency is not to build technology, as the internal culture would need to be different. I’d have to build a completely different business to do that.

With that in mind, it’s reasonable to assume that the current AI hype cycle isn’t a priority in the short term, although Wazacz says the firm is keeping an eye on what use cases are coming through at other companies to see how and where it is being effectively deployed: 

We're on a journey. Although we are interested in how we can deploy AI, we are going to be using AI initially to solve very simple problems that have been proven by lots of other companies…Do I think we could use AI there relatively soon? Yes, I do. But that's because we'll be confident that AI has solved a similar problem for lots of other people and we can apply it in our business. Our focus on innovation is on specifically solving customer problems concerning travel money.

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