thread of finance
Preceding every international student adventure is an epic journey made by the money,
often crowd-funded among family, which travels from one country to another and buys the
life-changing experience a student is investing in. Banks and fintech firms are increasingly
pivoting towards students as a business segment to cater for, reports Jim Butler.
ISSUE #25 | THE PIE REVIEW | 67
WHEN 19-YEAR-OLD Indonesian student
Irfan Pora secured a place at university in
the UK, he and his parents were overjoyed. It
was not only the first time that anyone from his family had
attained a place to study such a prestigious education, it
was also to be the first time someone from the Pora exten-ded
family had travelled abroad.
Leading up to his departure in the late summer of 2018,
the pressure on Irfan and his family to sort out all the ar-rangements
was intense. Airfares, arranging housing on
campus, bank accounts, organising the necessary insurance
policies… there was a lot to coordinate.
So when a seemingly reputable third party with links to
Irfan’s university got in touch to inform him they could take
care of his tuition payments – and not only that they could
secure a 10 per cent discount with his school and they would
even pay his tuition in advance for him – he was happy to let
this company take on that burden.
At the same time, on the other side of the world, 18-year-old
Argentinian maths prodigy Catalina Tevez was preparing
for her place at one of America’s Ivy League universities.
She went to her local bank in Buenos Aires, paid the bill sent
to her in full and at the exchange rate quoted.
Unfortunately, both Irfan and Catalina never started their
courses when they were meant to. Irfan had been scammed
out of his money. His fees had been paid with a stolen credit
card and his payment had disappeared. Catalina got as far
as school on her first day only to find her courses had been
cancelled because her university had not received the full
Thankfully, Irfan and Catalina aren’t real people. But
speak to anyone working in the international education FX
space and these examples are all too common. Two of the
biggest players in this sector are Flywire and Western Union
and they are familiar with the risk that is inherent in these
global financial transactions.