Forex in SA – Ignorance is expensive, certainly not bliss

Arno von Helden is the driver of Standard Bank’s revolutionary in-house fintech called Shyft, a business that’s democratising the foreign exchange market for retail investors. In this interview with Alec Hogg of BizNews, Arno explains how Shyft clients can transact at a fraction of the fee charged traditionally – and shares the next moves for the innovative platform, including offering shares listed in Europe, the UK and South Africa.


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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 01:02 – Arno von Helden on Shyft
  • 01:29 – Von Helden on whether or not the app has reached the traction he originally anticipated
  • 03:05 – On how Shyft’s low exchange fees save its users money
  • 05:16 – On how Shyft allows users to save money when travelling
  • 08:43 – On Shyft introducing US shares to SA buyers
  • 13:48 – On if Shyft will introduce fractioning shares in the future
  • 18:10 – On when Shyft will introduce JSE-listed stocks
  • 19:56 – On where Shyft stands in the realm of global tech advancement

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Excerpts from the interview

Arno von Helden on Shyft’s low foreign exchange rate

The Standard Bank group and the global markets division in Standard Bank is the largest foreign exchange dealer on the African continent today. I think at last count, we do around 50% of all rand-dollar trade globally and the rest of our competitors do the other 50%. Now, what does that mean? That means that we are able to price foreign exchange pricing against the rand. We can manage the risk better. We can therefore price off more aggressively. And that gives us a massive strategic advantage which we are leveraging in platforms like Shyft to be able to offer the best foreign exchange rate in South Africa today. 

Read more: Standard Bank’s Shyft digital wallet offers unique share trading experience

On what Shyft offers its users

We launched Shyft about six years ago, and what we did very well was [that] we made the ability to buy and get into foreign exchange from Rands extremely simple. So now you had a system where you could literally turn it into a Rand wallet, and within seconds you could buy dollars, euros, pounds, or Australian dollars. It would clear immediately [and] the money would instantaneously be available to you. So that is really the core of what we do. We’re a liquidity machine that can [provide] the ability to move from one currency into another and back into a currency [and] can make that very simple. We can give you a live [exchange] rate [and] you can choose when to do that and how to do that and how much you want to do without having to go through a third party. You’re in complete control of that.

Read more: How much are you really paying for forex?

On the future of Shyft

Our hope is to have the JSE on the platform by the end of this year. Again, we’re starting with [the] London Stock Exchange, we expect that to be live imminently, followed by Euro Stocks [and then the] Johannesburg Stock Exchange. There are a few complexities that we need to resolve on our side, but we’re working very hard to bring that on time as well. Furthermore, I think it’s also important to note that we are also developing a web based version of Shyft, which is also going to enhance the user experience so that it’s not just for mobile phone. You’ll be able to log onto Shyft through a website or tablet and can render on any device, and you’ll be able to actually experience that from a desktop perspective and have access to the same features and soon more enhanced features associated to trading or buying foreign exchange, etc..

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