Travelex Group Investments is now the world’s largest operator of airport exchange bureaux and one of America’s largest providers of holiday insurance through travel agencies. It is also spectacularly profitable, having driven profits up by 107% pa, from £660,000 in 1995 to £5.9m in 1998. Sales grew by 42% pa in the same period to reach £1.5 billion. Set up by ex-merchant banker Lloyd Dorfman in 1976, Travelex began life as an exchange kiosk in Trafalgar Square. When rising rents squeezed margins for Dorfman’s West End outlets, he became the first independent UK operator to win an airport exchange licence. But it was the threat posed by the adoption of the single European currency that forced the company to begin a major diversification drive in 1994 that was to push up profits. Travelex set up a corporate payments division, managing cross-border transactions for large blue-chip organisations. It also began to take on currency work for travel agents and banks, buying Barclays’ Transpay foreign currency processing service in 1999. Dorfman says it is the higher margin corporate work which has delivered the bulk of his profit growth. Based in London, Travelex now has 300 outlets world-wide.
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