A year ago, Direct FX was a UK-based chain of 25 bureaux de change. Now, it is making 20% of its revenues in the US, without investing in a single physical outlet. Instead, it has set up a virtual bureau de change on the internet (www.foreign-currency.com).
The web site allows US customers to order currency online, by phone or fax, which is sent to them by registered mail within three days - or the next day for an extra $10.
The main reason for setting up the site was that Direct FX wanted to grow its business but the UK market was already heavily saturated, says Direct FX director Jonathan Bloch. So it looked to the US where it can still be difficult to get hold of foreign currency outside the main cities. The internet has provided the company with a low-cost means of expansion and a US bank has agreed to provide the currency.
'The site started off slowly but, ironically, as more companies have introduced online bureaux de change, and people have become used to them, its popularity has risen sharply,' says Bloch. Direct FX will soon offer higher margin services online, such as wire transfers and bank transfers.