Fintech Airwallex opens Israel office to expand footprint in Middle East

Financial technology firm operates a payment platform processing more than $50 billion in transactions annually; ex-Google manager to head Tel Aviv office

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

Airwallex Shanghai office. (Courtesy)
Airwallex Shanghai office. (Courtesy)

Australian fintech company Airwallex is opening its first office in Israel this week to expand its business activities in the Middle East.

The financial technology firm, which operates a payment platform that allows customers to issue and pay international invoices and bills, said Tuesday it chose Tel Aviv as its headquarters for the Mideast region due to strong consumer demand and Israel’s tech ecosystem.

Founded in 2015 in Melbourne, Australia, Airwallex processes more than $50 billion in transactions annually and operates in 20 locations globally in the Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America.

Among its customers are a number of Israeli tech firms, including payroll management service Papaya Global and venture capital fund OurCrowd as well as global companies such as Shein, Qantas, Plum and Navan (formerly TripActions).

“Setting up local operations in Israel is just the first step in our ambitious plan for expansion across EMEA in 2023,” said Pranav Sood, general manager of the EMEA region — Europe, the Middle East and Africa — at Airwallex. “Israel is at the forefront of tech innovation and a global hub for high-growth startups.”

“Israeli technology businesses are ‘default global’ and we have already seen the impact that our payments and financial infrastructure can have for them as they grow across borders,” Sood added.

The fintech firm’s decision to establish its presence in Israel comes as the prospect of the judiciary system being weakened has been fueling uncertainty in recent months threatening to undermine Israel’s standing as a stable hub for investments from abroad, on which the local high-tech ecosystem largely relies on for its existence.

Israeli firms, including Papaya, earlier this year announced plans to withdraw funds from Israel in protest of the emerging contentious judicial overhaul. The advancement of the proposed judicial changes was paused in March to allow for negotiations between coalition and opposition representatives in an attempt to formulate broad consensus on the judicial reform.

Israeli-Australian Or Liban will head the Tel Aviv office and the firm’s expansion in Israel and the Middle East. Previously, Liban led Google’s global partnerships and held management roles at Orange and Israel’s Prime Minister’s office.

“Technology is core to unlocking the power of global payments, and digital trade is front and center for economic development throughout Israel and the Middle East,” Liban stated. “Airwallex’s unique financial infrastructure and embedded finance capability is a winning combination as businesses look for new revenue streams through global expansion.”

Airwallex is valued at $5.5 billion and has raised more than $900 million from investors including Salesforce Ventures, Sequoia, Tencent, Square Peg, Lone Pine Capital and 1835i. The fintech firm has 1,300 employees globally and has plans to hire an additional 500 employees by the end of 2023.

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