iBanFirst is a fintech supporting more than 4,000 SMEs and their multicurrency transactions from its headquarters in Brussels.
Is iBanFirst the right option for your business payment needs and performance compared to another fintech or a traditional bank offer? To help you answer this question, we take a closer look at iBanFirst’s business account, other services, and fees, and make our final recommendation.
Who owns iBanFirst?
Founded in 2013, iBanFirst is a global financial services provider for SMEs operating across borders. It offers payment solutions in a range of currencies and hedging products, and recently expanded its international growth prospects with the acquisition of UK FX provider, Cornhill.
iBanFirst is privately owned and headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. It is not a bank but it has been licensed as a payment services provider by the National Bank of Belgium since 2013. iBanFirst is a member of the SWIFT network, and it is SEPA certified, operating in 30 countries in the European Economic Area.
In compliance with EU regulations, iBanFirst’s client funds are held in separate accounts at European banks. You can consider your money as safe as the European banks iBanFirst is partnered with.
As a result of strong growth and turnover increase, iBanFirst recently changed its CEO and chief operating officer. Other c-suite changes include a new chief revenue officer, chief people officer, and the chief behavioral officer and chief communication officer roles have been combined into one role.
Requirements for opening a business account
Any company with foreign exchange and international payment volumes greater than EUR100,000 per year can open an iBanFirst account.
Restrictions might apply depending on the incorporation country, business activity, or origin of funds. For example, you cannot do business with countries or nationalities on iBanFirst’s sanction list.
This list is not disclosed on the iBanFirst website, so you may need to contact them for more detail to confirm the eligibility of your business.
How to apply for a business account
You can open an iBanFirst account online. You start by filling out the online form, which acts as a request to open an account.
A sales manager will then be in touch to ask for the following documents [*]:
- iBanFirst signed contract
- Proof of incorporation
- Shareholder structure chart identifying ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs), which is dated and signed
- Main bank account details
- A valid identity document for each UBO (such as a passport or national identity card).
An ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) is a person who, directly or indirectly, owns or controls a company with more than 25% of company share or voting rights.
Steps to apply
Fill in the online account opening form [*]
Provide your company and UBO documentation
The iBanFirst compliance team will then review your application and run the required checks to verify it
Your account manager will setup your account
Your account will be ready to use after you have made your first transfer (also called the activation bank transfer). The transfer must come from a bank account in your name within the European Economic Area. [*]
Opening an account takes around 3-5 days, but can be as quick as one day for companies with simple structures and all of their documentation ready to go.
The business account is based in Belgium. You can hold funds, receive payments and make payments in over 30 currencies to assist your daily operations.
The currencies are AED, AUD, BGN, CAD, CHF, CNY, CZK, DKK, EUR, GBP, HKD, HUF, ILS, JPY, MAD, MXN, NOK, NZD, PLN, RON, RUB, SAR, SEK, SGD, THB, TRY, USD, XAF (buy only), XOF (buy only), and ZAR [*].
A feature of the account that is mentioned in iBanFirst’s marketing is the offer of different payment speeds. The different types are [*]:
- Instant – payments between iBanFirst accounts are instantaneous
- RTGS – payments with RTGS ( Real-time gross settlement) are received by the beneficiary's bank in as little as one hour during business hours but may take longer to be credited to the nominated account
- Express – payments are usually credited to the beneficiary's bank account within 24 hours
- Standard – payments are usually credited to the beneficiary's bank account within 2 to 3 business days.
Payment speeds are not guaranteed and actual speeds might vary depending on factors such as regulatory and compliance checks, payment cut-off times, as well as the beneficiary banks involved in the process.
Also, iBanFirst does not mention on its website if there are any payment limits for its business account customers. Best to check if any limits exist with iBanFirst.
iBanFirst does not offer payment cards.
With this Belgium fintech, you can make foreign currency conversions at the spot (or market) rate at the time of the request, or by using a forward rate provided by iBanFirst. A forward rate is a rate iBanFirst offers for the conversion of currency at a future date. It allows you to hedge against currency value changes between now and then.
iBanFirst offers three types of forward rate contracts:
- Flexible forwards
- Dynamic forwards.
Forward rates must be arranged over the phone with iBanFirst. If the forward rate is for a period longer than seven days, this risk must be covered by collateral. The collateral is a percentage of the amount to be paid and is deducted from the total amount to be settled.
iBanFirst offers a range of other services to SME clients.
- Payment tracker - focus on and track the status of your international payments in real-time, giving you full visibility over the payment process and the intermediary banks and fees involved.
- Aggregate all your accounts in one place - get a crisp overview of your multicurrency accounts, as well as those held at other banks, for tax reporting.
- REST API - connect iBanFirst to your own system. The iBanFirst API includes features such as retrieving account balances, creating and validating a payment and getting a currency conversion quote.
- Integrating your iBanFirst account with accounting software using Budget Insight: connect and synchronize bank accounts with Dougs, Axonaut, Time, and others [*].
|Maintenance (above EUR100,000 yearly transactions)||Free|
|Maintenance (below EUR100,000 yearly transactions)||EUR50 (annual)|
|Between iBanFirst accounts||Free|
|If transaction volume is above EUR100,000/year||Free|
|If transaction volume is below EUR100,000/year||0.5% on all incoming funds|
|Between iBanFirst accounts||Free|
|Transfer in EUR via SEPA||EUR0.5|
*SHARED: The order giver pays the fees charged by their bank. The fees charged by the beneficiary’s bank are the beneficiary’s responsibility.
**OUR: The order giver pays the fee charged by all the banks in the payment chain.
Getting in touch
You can contact iBanFirst or provide feedback via phone (+32 28 08 15 42) or by using their contact form. They do not offer a live chat function or email address. We found their FAQ page helpful, but it was not comprehensive and we were left with some outstanding questions.
If you’re an SME operating across borders, you will be wanting to minimize your transaction costs and processes with financial partners. Fintechs like iBanFirst present a cheaper and faster solution than traditional banks for businesses.
If your yearly transaction volume is greater than EUR100,000 and you mainly operate in Europe, iBanFirst could be a secure and genuine cost saver for your business. You may only end up paying fees for sending payments and converting foreign currency. The transparency around the payments process is a benefit and could help you to identify further cost savings. You will also get a dedicated account manager you can contact at any time.
If you do business outside of Europe or plan to in the next several years, or your yearly transaction volume is under EUR100,000, payment fees could quickly accumulate with iBanFirst. It might be wise to do some due diligence on an alternative provider.
Hong Kong-based fintech Statrys offers a business account that supports 11 currencies, including EUR, GBP, USD, JPY, CNY, SGD, and HKD. It offers low and flat payment fees, and FX fees are based on the real-time mid-market rate. You can apply for payment cards for more flexibility in making payments. And for questions or assistance you may need, each client gets their own dedicated account manager.
We do our best to source all of the information and data we can find and present it succinctly in our reviews, to save you the leg work. If we missed anything about iBanFirst, please send us a message and we will endeavor to make this review even more comprehensive.
This review is based on information available on the iBanFirst website as of January 2023.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax, or other professional advice from Statrys Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties, or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete, or up to date.