Founded in 1976, Travelex’s mission is to simplify our customers’ access to international money, however and whenever. We have grown to become one of the market leading specialist providers of foreign exchange products, solutions and services, operating across the entire value chain of the foreign exchange industry in more than 20 countries.
1970s | Origins
The Travelex story began in December 1976, when our founder Lloyd Dorfman opened the first ever store in central London. Located on Southampton Row between Bloomsbury and Holborn, the store – which at the time was called Express Exchange - was ideally located in a busy tourist area and to serve the nearby University of London’s growing number of international students.
By 1978, four stores had been established across the city of London. The next stage of our growth was unlocked from 1979 with the beginnings of the de-regulation of the financial services industry, which saw non-bank retailers able to openly trade foreign currencies for the first time.
1980s | Aviation and ferry industry breakthroughs
Our expansion into ferry terminals came in the early 1980s, and our first on-board ferry service – on an operator between England and the Netherlands – followed shortly after. By 1984 we had our first international store, opening at Rotterdam terminal on the Dutch mainland itself.
1986 saw the opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 4, and with it the concept of a new departure lounge retail shopping experience. At the time, all airport bureaux de change were owned and run by major banks, and our successful bid made us the first non-bank forex retailer at Heathrow. With this latest stage of our growth came a comprehensive rebrand; Express Exchange became ‘Travellers Exchange Corporation’ – and Travelex, when abbreviated, was born.
1990s | International growth and investment
By 1990 we were breaking new international boundaries. Having opened in New York’s JFK airport in 1989, in the 1990s we expanded to 50 terminals across 34 other US airports with the acquisition of the forex business of Mutual of Omaha. 1990 also saw our expansion into APAC, with the opening of our stores in the domestic terminals of Brisbane Airport, Australia.
The late 1990s also saw a series of investments, acquisitions and takeovers – including our takeover of Abbey National’s retail forex operation and Abbey National's investment in Travelex (1995); investment from 3i (1998); and our acquisition of Transpay, Barclays’ UK wholesale banknote centre (1999). The Transpay acquisition kick-started our vault operations (including the provision of forex to major banks), while 1999 also provided a glimpse of our future, with the launch of Travelex Online in the UK. With the digital and financial landscape changing, we also took our first steps into the world of international payments.
2000s | Thomas Cook expansion
Our £440m acquisition of Thomas Cook Global Financial Services in 2001 served as a watershed moment, radically transforming the scale and identity of our business. By providing us with Thomas Cook’s worldwide network of forex stores, an outsourced travel money operation and a B2B payments division – as well as over a century of forex expertise and heritage – the acquisition laid a new foundation for the future.
Following the acquisition, our new brand identity was launched. This included a new logo, and a new tagline: ‘Worldwide Money’. Our first stores in the Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern markets followed soon after. The noughties also saw further expansion with the acquisition of Dutch firm GWK for €15m, our first APAC ATM at Brisbane Airport, and the launch of Travelex’s renowned National Theatre sponsorship and ticket scheme in the UK.
2010s | New fintech focus
With a new decade came a new structure and focus. The 2011 sales of both our prepaid card programme management business to MasterCard and our international payments business to Western Union unlocked nearly £900m of capital. These sales, in turn, enabled us to invest in a wide range of innovative new products, investments and services over the course of the decade, including:
Our first multi-currency prepaid cards (2012); the acquisition of Brazil’s Group Confidence (2013 to 2015); a new wholesale business in China, the first international payment card without roaming fees and our Travelex Money App (2015); our bank-to-bank international payments platform (2017); and an international money transfer feature in Samsung Pay (2019). By the end of the 2010s, we had not only fully embraced the fintech revolution sweeping through the forex industry but had established ourselves as innovators in our own right.
2020s | Travelex today: our journey continues
In 2020, the impact of the global health pandemic posed an unprecedented challenge to the travel sector and businesses across the industry have had to make difficult decisions to give them the best chance of survival until international travel returns.
In response to this and other headwinds, Travelex successfully completed a major restructure of the business in August 2020, to provide a new and robust capital and ownership structure. This laid the foundations for a post-COVID-19 world where the travel industry, and trade, starts to recover.
Today Travelex operates along the entire foreign exchange value chain, offering both consumers and businesses a wide range of services.
- Our core consumer foreign exchange offering is available in stores, online, mobile and ATMs
- We offer international payments and remittance services
- We prepare, process and deliver foreign currency for our supermarket and retail bank customers
- We source and distribute large quantities of foreign currency banknotes for wholesale customers, including central banks and international financial institutions.
Since opening in 1976, Travelex has evolved from a single high street bureau de change to a globally recognised and widely trusted foreign exchange operator. We’ve extended our services over international borders, bringing Travelex to six continents, whilst broadening our business from solely exchanging money to providing the currency solutions our customers want. As the digital era continues to grow, we've invested in technology and capability to ensure we continue to stay ahead of the game, and continue to reinvent ourselves as a digital business that offers our customers the best methods for spending and sending money around the world.
We’ve grown our money transfer business across remittance and international payments transforming the way in which we are able to serve our customers and partners.
We work hard every day to achieve our mission, vision and strategic pillars and stay true to the values which have helped build the leading position we have today. Together with our shareholders we will continue on our journey to be the most recognised, respected and reliable brand in international money for our customers and partners.