Geoswift's translator tackles China's tricky payments language barrier

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Hong Kong-based Geoswift got its start by creating technology powering cross-border tuition payments sent by families from China to colleges abroad, but when Geoswift saw corporate payments into China begin to grow, its biggest barrier wasn’t technology, but language.

Over the last few years with the rise of e-commerce, Geoswift has seen rising demand for smaller corporate disbursements under $5,000 each heading into China, generally from English-speaking countries to small- and midsize to Chinese businesses, which frequently require special attention.

The challenge for payments going into China is each requires a very specific format using Chinese characters to be in accordance with China National Advanced Payment System, the country’s domestic settlement network, and that detail was preventing Geoswift's B-to-B growth, according to Dana Nino, Geoswift’s executive vice president for the U.S.
“China’s payment system requires that certain payment files be provided in what’s called simplified Chinese, and while large international companies and banks usually have the code to do this, smaller companies typically lack this capability,” Nino said.

The language gap this causes has been a continual pain point for Geoswift's customers, including businesses in e-commerce and online travel companies seeing a surge in high-volume, low-value payments, according to Nino.

"We were unable to help a lot of business customers sending money into China, because they didn't have systems to translate payment details from Roman characters to Chinese," she said.

After searching fruitlessly for a third-party solution to the problem, Geoswift recently developed its own.

Geoswift’s new process enables companies in North America or Europe to initiate a payment to a Chinese company using traditional payment file instructions in English, and its proprietary tool automatically translates the essential information into simplified Chinese characters necessary for recipients to get the funds, Nino explained.

“We’re testing this now with several clients who say it’s the first time they’ve had the ability to send payments to China this way, and we think it’s going to open up a lot of opportunity,” she said.

Most of the payments Geoswift expects to handle through its new automatic-translation service are B-to-B, but some payments also go from businesses to individuals in China, Nino said.

“The B-to-C side of payments to China is a newer area that’s still evolving,” she said.

Tuition payments continue to be a core business for Geoswift—China accounts for 25% of all international students—and the niche is thriving. About one million foreign students currently are in the U.S. alone, which is among the top three destinations for international students, along with the U.K. and Canada.

Geoswift recently announced a promotion with UnionPay International and Western Union Business Solutions awarding Amazon gift cards to customers who use its PayTuitionNow portal through March 2018.

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