PagoFX: Helping Santander build a trusted digital business

Red Badger worked with Santander’s PagoFX team to design, build and deliver a best-in-class payments service.

Part of Santander’s four-year (2019-2022), 20 billion-euro digital technology pledge, PagoFX is a standalone international money transfer app that offers anyone low cost money transfers, bank-level security, and multi-channel customer support.

In 2020, the service was launched in the UK with bold plans to expand into 20 new markets thereafter.


  • Built an end-to-end product in just 18 months – in a highly regulated financial sector
  • Designed a best-in-class customer experience, powered by user testing across Europe
  • Helped establish a solid technical foundation to set PagoFX up for future success
  • Created a service that was recognised by users with a 4+ star rating on the App Store

Finding the right product-market fit

Over the last couple of years, international transfers have seen an increasing number of new-to-market providers offering innovative, user centred services. Consumer expectations are changing fast.

In this context, Santander saw an opportunity to delight the market with a brand new service that brings together the best of both worlds. PagoFX combines the trust and security of a large established bank with the single-minded customer focus of an industry disruptor.

Defining unknown problems

Money transfer services haven’t traditionally been beloved of customers. Imagine WhatsApp without the blue ticks, without notifications and where only half your message gets delivered. Then imagine being charged £20 to send that message. That’s what sending money overseas has felt like for many.

How do you shake that up and offer something altogether more effortless and reassuring? PagoFX's key selling points are around giving back control to the customer through transparency, offering fair pricing, and being trustworthy (which goes hand in hand with being backed by a world-renowned bank).

Part of our job was to validate the assumptions underlying the new product and help PagoFX product owners prioritise which problems to solve first.

Red Badger experts set out to design a minimum desirable product – a limited internal pilot launch of an iOS application with a full customer onboarding journey and end-to-end international payment encompassing the capture of funds, FX hedging, and settlement.

Speaking to real customers

At Red Badger, we believe in getting out of the building to speak to real customers, shaping products with people at their heart. This project was no exception. We listened, and learnt that customers who’d used traditional banks to make international money transfers were frustrated with hidden fees, long delivery times, and poor visibility of payments.

This valuable information allowed us to better understand the problems we needed to solve, as well as who’s been struggling with these problems and how.

Red Badger put the product in the hands of real users early on, through a comprehensive user onboarding initiative. We worked closely with PagoFX’s business, legal and tech teams to create a journey that met their requirements as well as the needs of users. The result? We crafted a product that gave users a strong sense of security and that’s simple and easy to use.

We took the same user-centric approach to defining the payments journey, too. And we did everything we could to make the payment process refreshingly transparent.

Post it with ideas

Thinking like a start-up

To create value fast, we needed to run the project according to Lean and Agile principles. The PagoFX team was set up to operate independently of the larger bank’s operations. It was given the autonomy to make product and technology choices and to experiment safely in isolation.

For dramatically increased speed to market, the initial minimum desirable product was built using a number of third party services for some of the key functionality, with the longer-term strategy to migrate onto Santander platforms where appropriate.

The first step towards an end-to-end product was to produce a pilot proving the key features we knew we needed: customer registration; the “Know Your Customer” verification process; acquiring funds from the customer; exchanging currency on the FX market; and sending money to the recipient.

We built a series of prototypes exploring the technical feasibility of various early product ideas, including processing ApplePay payments and NFC scanning of biometric information from ID documents on Android.

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Building a licensed payment provider

Santander established a separate legal entity for PagoFX and submitted an application for a payments license to the UK and EU regulators. Red Badger gave expert support from a technology perspective, covering cloud architecture, the processing of sensitive information, and general information security controls.

The pilot’s success meant the next goals were a full launch in the UK, followed by the EU. While the pilot product was an end-to-end journey, the full scope of work for a public launch was significantly larger and more complex.

Scaling and learning

To achieve the larger scale launch at speed, the project grew from one Red Badger team to four parallel Red Badger teams.

Here’s what the additional teams worked on:

  • Android application – a key platform to reach customers in the EU markets
  • A staff-facing customer and payment operations portal – enabling operators to monitor customer onboarding and payments processing so they could support customers and monitor for any financial crime
  • An accounting ledger system to keep track of the precise movements of funds during online payment processing

As with any Red Badger project, we made sure we were continuously learning and improving. With our key user journeys defined, we ran regular lab-style usability testing sessions to evaluate journeys and to highlight any key usability issues. The process was designed to be collaborative, allowing key stakeholders and team members to understand and empathise with the user.

We created a clear roadmap to incorporate customer desires and feedback, to continue to improve the experience and grow the customer base.

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From project to sustainable business

PagoFX’s aim? To make sure the business was well-positioned to operate the service independently and continue to scale the product into new markets. Together, we’ve provided a solid platform for these ambitions.

In under 18 months, Red Badger helped PagoFX go from prototype to live product. The live product we created is now being rolled out globally.

We’re proud of the work we’ve done to help create a foundation which PagoFX can confidently build upon in the future. Above all, we’re excited that so many customers will be able to make use of this trusted, secure and innovative product to send money abroad quickly and safely.

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