UK-based company Fourex is rolling out self-service currency exchange machines across London’s underground network with a kiosk now live at King’s Cross station.
Fourex machines enable customers to exchange notes and coins from more than 150 countries for
cash paid out in one of three currencies. The machines also accepts pre-euro currencies no longer in circulation, such as German marks, Irish punt or Spanish peseta.
Solving a real problem
Speaking to PCM, co-founder of Fourex, Jeff Paterson, explained that the idea for an unattended, self-service bureau de change came from solving his own problem.
Living abroad and travelling extensively for his job, Paterson was about to move house and pulled out a drawer with around £500 of notes and coins from overseas holidays and business trips. He managed to realise about £30 from this. The rest was in denominations that were too small to exchange, in coins or not a currency accepted back.
“I thought there’s got to be an opportunity here. The flights we were taking were all full, and I though everyone else must have the same problem,” says Paterson.
Paterson and his business partner Oliver du Toit founded Fourex four years ago. They spent the first two years adapting image recognition technology for coins.
“There are around 20-30,000 coin faces in the world that are worth anything. We had to be able to recognise these coins at high speed and exchange them, including when someone came with a jar of mixed coins.
We then looked at integrating a note validator. There was nothing else in the market. The most other companies exchange is two or three currencies.
The business model has evolved as we have gone along. People now have the ability to put a jar of mixed, unsorted coins into the machine, and can feed in any note. The machine recognises the currencies in about a tenth of a second, tallies them up and pays out in either pounds, euro or US dollar.”
Plans for roll-out
Paterson realised that London was the place to launch Fourex when travelling on an overcrowded tube train.
“Commuters are travelling across the city twice a day, five days a week. I approached London Underground about two-and-half years ago and they fell in love with the idea. We have a contract in place with them to roll out to a number of London Underground stations.
We also have a contract with Westfield shopping malls. We’re looking at high footfall, central London locations initially, and are aiming for 400-500 machines across the city in the next two-and-a-half years.”
Fourex has also seen interest from around 20 companies worldwide, since winning a nationwide competition for entrepreneurs. The concept of the machine remains the same.
“We can change the language and the three pay-out currencies. With our technology we don’t have the rental or staff costs of a bureau de change, and we can pass on the benefit to consumers in the form of better rates,” concludes Paterson.