For more than a decade, Flywire has been a trusted partner to thousands of educational institutions all around the world, helping them to deliver on the most important and complex payments from students and families. So much of why we’re considered the Trusted Choice for our clients comes down to hard work and dedication; we’ve invested in our global payment network, we’ve continuously innovated our comprehensive receivables solution, and we’ve thoughtfully hired a team of education industry experts who have firsthand experience with some of the challenges that our clients face.
Flywire is very fortunate to have numerous Flymates coming directly from the education industry as part of our team. We feel this gives us a unique perspective on what our education clients deal with on a day-to-day basis so we can more easily relate and help address their needs.
As part of our new “Trust Me” blog series, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight various members of our education team by sharing insights and lessons learned around key industry themes. Over the next few months, we will be unveiling an inside look into the Flywire experts who provide so much support and guidance to our clients and the students they serve worldwide.
First up, Jim Garrant, our Director, Education Associations & Partnerships. Jim is not only a Flymate, but also a former Flywire client. From student info booth to student accounts and financial services, Jim has had a front row seat to the ins and outs of education payments as both a student and a member of the finance team before coming to Flywire.
Tune in to the video below - and read on for the full transcript:
What education institution(s) did you work at prior to Flywire?
“I was a student-athlete at Syracuse and worked in the student information booth there. It was known as the ‘fishbowl’ and it was the first thing parents and students saw when they arrived on campus. We got questions about anything and everything.
After Syracuse, I worked at Boston University in the student accounts department for about ten years. Back then almost everyone paid in person. It would get really backed up at the start of each semester. Eventually we had to move our office to the student union so we could use the ballroom. Students would come in with checks and money belts. We had a lot of international students and they would often pay in cash. Some even got robbed in taxis. This clearly was before the school turned to Flywire for global payments processing!
From there, I went to Wheaton College for ten years, and then Wellesley for 14, before ending up at Lasell College, a small private school just outside Boston. I first met Sharon Butler from Flywire when I was Associate Director of Student Financial Services at Wellesley. At the time, I was responsible for receivables and unfortunately dealing with many payments that weren’t tracked or made on time. She offered to help us with our international student payments so I brought her in to meet with my colleagues. Flywire’s solution demo was so compelling that I thought there’d be a catch - today, there’s still no catch.
In fact, when I was at Wellesley, Sharon asked me to speak at events and webinars every so often to let other schools know about Flywire and how it worked. I was like the original Flywire brand ambassador!”
What were your roles? What were the major pain points in your job?
“I was always involved in student financial services – billing, payments, receivables.
The biggest problem was not being aware that we had problems with international student payments. Usually, if an international student arrived on campus and their funds weren’t there when they tried to register, they would simply make another payment. Then we’d go back and figure out where the original payment was. This created a lot of uncertainty for students and a lot of extra work for us.
Even worse, we discovered that in an effort to make it easier for international students to wire funds, we were sharing our bank information on our website. Some schools still do it today. This practice may create risk for fraud that paying via Flywire helps to minimize.
Beyond that, before Flywire, reconciling international payments was always a challenge. Exchange rates and hidden fees would create short payments and a lot of manual handling and time to rectify. Not to mention the stress it created for the students.”
What led you to join Flywire?
“I loved what I was doing at Lasell as Director of Student Accounts, but I was only helping a small group of international students and families. Flywire gave me the opportunity to have a much bigger impact on institutions and students worldwide. It’s a nice feeling to be able to help spread the word faster and quicker. I love the product and people here. It’s a great place for me!”
What industry knowledge did you gain in your previous roles that helps you at Flywire? How do you feel you’re personally helping clients solve their pain points today?
“When I started at Flywire, I remember a particular AH-HA moment. I was sitting with Kelli Accardi, who is Global Strategic Accounts, Team Lead and an International Student Advocate. We were discussing the difference between speaking with students vs. administrators vs. finance people. She invited me to come with her on a client call. It made me realize the value of having sat in the client’s seat at so many different institutions.
The other thing is appreciating all the things you don’t know on the client side. For example, I might be the face of Flywire but there are so many other people behind the scenes in other countries, and time zones, speaking different languages, making those payments move smoothly. I’ve been where they are and I know I can help them with their payment.”
Do you have any advice for someone trying to make a career move similar to the one you made?
“No advice per se, but I will share a story about the opportunity to make a difference.
I received an email from a colleague recently sharing an experience. She was commenting that she doesn’t really get to leave the work at her desk at the end of each day at Flywire, but that was okay because she wouldn’t want to miss the interactions she has with students and parents. She had walked one international student all the way through his first semester. The family invited her to their son’s graduation. That’s a connection! You don’t get to hear those stories, but the opportunity to make a difference like that, in addition to saving the school time and money, makes it all worthwhile.
By combining solution innovation and our proven global payment network with industry experience, Flywire is the Trusted Choice for millions of students, thousands of institutions and hundreds of education agents and partners worldwide. Check out our interactive maps to see how students and institutions experience the difference with Flywire.