Remittances are down and Money Transfers are up?

Last week, The Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD1) published its Migration and Remittances Brief  #27 (April 2017) prepared by Dilip Ratha, Supriyo De, Sonia Plaza and the rest of the team2 of the Migration and Remittances Unit of the Global Indicators Group of the World Bank.

As I mention in the IMTC conferences, these great briefs are the basis for the information I use for my presentations and courses and by far the best information that is collected in the world on remittances.

This is Part 1 of a compendium/overview of what I find more important for the industry in this Brief; I hope it’s a helpful guide in case you have not seen it yet.

Making Way for Digital Agents

A new trend is ready to reinvigorate the remittance industry

The International Money Transfer & Payments industry has always relied on a large network of brick & mortar agents, both in the sending side of a corridor as well as in the receiving side. It is more true in the sending side, where mom & pop ethnic stores have dominated the landscape providing good and reliable services to migrants in many cities & towns in the world. Migrants trust them and even if they are losing ground to retail chains agent networks and other more corporate store chains, they still handle the large majority of orders sent in the US, Europe and the Gulf.

Western Union, MoneyGram, Ria Money Transfer have always published their agent number as a sign of the growth of their collection (on the sending side) & distribution network (on the paying side).

How is technology changing the remittance industry?

In the process of building the RemTECH Awards http://bit.ly/RemAwards1 and asking ourselves what innovation in the remittances industry meant, I searched the internet and talked to colleagues, both in the traditional financial services sector, bank and non-bank, as well as in fintech start-ups.

I began with fintech and what is truly interesting is that there is a broad understanding of what fintech is but almost everyone doesn’t see eye-to-eye in the details. With no boundaries of how much technology has to change a financial service or a product or how much disruptive the company – or the idea is, to be labeled a “fintech”, almost anyone could call themselves a fintech nowadays if it applies technology, in a large measure, to all its processes.

How is technology changing the remittance industry?

Ant Financial’s & Euronet’s Bids for MoneyGram

(update)

MoneyGram and Ant Financial Services Group announced on April 17 that the companies have entered into an Amended Merger Agreement under which MoneyGram will merge with Ant Financial. Ant increased the offer price from $13.25 per share to $18.00 per share in cash (The transaction is valued at approx. $1,204 million). The operation will be completed in the Fall of 2017. It has gained antitrust clearance from the US government and the filing of state licensing approvals has begun. MGI will operate as an independent subsidiary of Ant Financial and retain its brand, management team, IT infrastructure and headquarters in Dallas. (http://bit.ly/newMGI-Ant)

IMTC LATAM 2017 Afterthoughts

Never before in an IMTC Conference we have had so many representatives from such a large number of sectors of society: politicians, ex-politicians, researchers, academics, pollsters, migration specialists, opinion makers, journalists, social workers, representatives of NGOs, cooperatives, “Cajas” (community banks), workers’ banks, entrepreneurs, remittance companies directives and commercial bank executives.

I think that three factors contributed to this outcome. The first…

Reinventing Remittances with Bitcoin

Stories from the startups on the front lines from Luis Buenaventura

Luis Buenaventura and his team at Bloom are passionate pioneers of the Bitcoin remittance industry as well as its most enthusiastic observers, and this book is their contribution back to this growing community.
Luis has spent the last few years focusing exclusively on cryptocurrency as a mechanism for cross-border money transfer, and he has managed to meet and learn from many of the other Bitcoin remittance players out there. Reinventing Remittances is a collection of conversations, essays, and real data from the field, and is illustrated with tons of graphics and photos.
The digital edition can be downloaded for free!

The Taxing of Remittances in the US

Georgia & Iowa move to leverage a tax on remittances – Financial Institutions are reacting

In a previous blog (in Spanish), posted in the midst of the many reporter calls, especially from Latinamerica (driven by the anxiety over the migration policies of the new US Trump administration), I mentioned the US legislators drive to tax remittances in the US. The State of Oklahoma is taxing remittances for some years now ($5 up to $500 and 1% after that). Several other States such as Georgia and Iowa are moving on this direction and the industry is watching. In the federal level there are also some initiatives being proposed. in an effort to fund the border wall.

ANNOUNCING THE REMTECH AWARDS

THE FIRST AWARDS TO BRING FINTECH INNOVATION ON REMITTANCES FORWARD

Selection is now open to the RemTECH Awards!. Nominees will be announced at the IMTC USA 2017 in San Francisco on June 13 and winners will be announced and awarded at the Global Forum on Remittances, Investment and Development at the GFRID2017 in New York on June 15. The GFRID2017 is organized by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Bank and the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) in New York City. The International Day of Family Remittances (IDFR) will be celebrated on June 16 in the context of the GFRID, at the United Nations headquarters. See Press Release

Vamos llegando (We are arriving) – poem & song

Almost 10 years ago I wrote this poem entitled “encontrando espacio” (finding space) that was published in my 2008 poetry book “más allá del mar”. Italian composer, Massimiliano Agelao, created a song, entitled “vamos llegando” (we are arriving) that was recorded – and performed, by a young group of musicians and singers in Colombia, called Grupo Musicalizando.
The song and the poem are a tribute to all the men and women who courageously challenge borders in search of a better future for themselves and their families … a tribute to the migrants of the whole world. I these worrying times of massive walls and deportations, I felt that it was a good time to share it with you.

The poem and the song are in Spanish and the translation is just to help you understand it; it is not, by any means a poetic translation…

The shifting views on family remittances

After a series of media interviews a couple of weeks ago, in a trip to Guatemala, I realized in a moment that I was witnessing a change in the public perception of remittances that I had not grasped before. Answering one by one journalist questions, it was unquestionable that I was witnessing a shift that I had not noticed before. After thinking about it, I could say that the shift is global although that doesn’t mean that a shift is happening in the same way or at the same time in every region or country in the world. Having been a part of the remittance industry for three decades I suddenly saw it very clearly. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself so let’s back up a little.

Remittances, Migration & the Trump Effect: The Press Asks Questions

“It is the migrant, most of the time forgotten, who is sustaining the economy”
Diario La Hora – Guatemala – Jan 20, 2017

Hugo Cuevas Mohr, director of IMTC (International Money Transfer Conferences), has worked for years advising bank and non-bank institutions on international money transfers, payments and remittances. In preparation for the IMTC regional forum that will be held in Antigua, Guatemala in March 8-10, he visited the country to talk about migration and remittances, in a moment where the appointment of Donald Trump as President of the United States has brought the subject to the foreground.

Cuevas-Mohr warned that countries in the Central American region and Mexico should not wait to take preventive measures that could protect migrants should US authorities push for legal changes that affect them.

Remesas, Migración y el Efecto Trump: La Prensa Pregunta

“Es el migrante, muchas veces olvidado, el que está financiando toda la economía”
Diario La Hora – Guatemala – Ene 20, 2017
Remesas se incrementaron por incertidumbre tras victoria de Trump

Hugo Cuevas Mohr, director de IMTC (Internacional Money Transfer Conferences), ha trabajado durante años asesorando a empresas bancarias y no bancarias sobre los asuntos de transferencias de dinero y remesas. Previamente al foro regional de IMTC que se llevará a cabo en la Antigua Guatemala en marzo, visitó el país para hablar sobre migración y remesas en el contexto del nombramiento de Donald Trump como presidente de los Estados Unidos. Cuevas-Mohr advierte que los países de la región centroamericana y México no deben esperar para tomar medidas preventivas que puedan proteger a los migrantes en caso de que las autoridades estadounidenses impulsen cambios legales que los afecten.

Las amenazas de Trump – Remesas, impuestos, migración, deportaciones y la construcción del muro

Remesas, impuestos, migración, deportaciones y la construcción del muro

Durante las primarias presidenciales republicanas del año pasado, Donald Trump expuso su propuesta de cómo forzar a México a pagar por el muro de 1,000 millas en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y este país. Los periodistas Bob Woodward y Robert Costa del Washington Post publicaron en Abril 5 de 2016 la noticia (http://wapo.st/2jbWHFn) en la cual Trump manifestaba su intención de amenazar a México con “cortar el suministro de remesas”. Trump envió en esta ocasión un memorando de dos páginas…

Press Release: IMTC LATAM 2017

Miami, January 5, 2017 – IMTC, the premier events of the International Money Transfer & Payments Industry, has announced today that its first remittance & migration conference of 2017 will be held in Antigua, Guatemala at the Porta Hotel. IMTC LATAM 2017 will be it’s first conference in Central America and will draw attendees from the Americas & Europe.

Remittances to Guatemala will surpass US 7 Billion for 2016, an all-time high. Remittances to Guatemala have grown steadily since 2010 with an average growth of 6% per year, outperforming most of the countries in the region. But also El Salvador, Honduras and even Mexico has seen remittances grow in 2016, all of them reaching all-time highs. Remittances to Honduras are expected to reach 4 billion while El Salvador could reach 4.5 B when year-end statistics are published. Higher incomes in the US and Trump fears are cited as reasons for the increases.

THE TRUMP MIGRATION POLICIES THAT MIGHT AFFECT THE INDUSTRY

Fears abound amidst growing speculation on what Trump’s new government will mean for migrants in the US and for Mexico and its remittances life-line.
I have been asked by many colleagues on what the Trump administration will mean to the industry and to remittances in general and I have basically kept quiet, scanning the news for its cabinet nominations to catch a glimpse, under all the noise and non-sense, of what could it all mean for our industry and to all the clients we serve in the United States. And with so much influence in the world, what happens in the US will surely affect the industry in many countries.

INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF MONEY TRANSFER ASSOCIATIONS

On December 12 in São Paulo, Brazil at the 2nd ABRACAM COMPLIANCE DAY an International Commission of Associations of Money Transfers Companies, Non-Bank Financial Services Companies, Foreign Exchange Firms and their Agents, was formed to make a public statement, signed by all the Associations, voicing their extreme concern regarding the negative impacts of “DE-RISKING” in the economic, financial e social areas of several countries in the region. They had met previously in November 11th, as part of IMTC WORLD 2016DE-RISKING & BANK DISCONTINUANCE FORUM” that discussed the impact of this practice in the Money Transfer, Remittance and Payment Industry. The termination of correspondent accounts of foreign financial institutions (FFIs) by US Commercial Banks as well as some these US Banks forcing local bank account closures by their corresponding banks in many countries in the region was also discussed at IMTC WORLD in an afternoon round table on Nov. 10, moderated by Daniel Trias.

Michael McDonald, in memoriam

Michael was a 27-year veteran of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. He retired in 1998 and formed a Miami based consulting firm specializing in international money laundering, Bank Secrecy Act, Patriot Act, asset forfeiture, compliance and related matters. The firm has been a network of retired Special Agents, each with in-depth experience in money laundering investigations.

Recent News about De-Risking, Financial Exclusion and Bank Discontinuance

On November 11th, as part of IMTC WORLD 2016 we will be having a “DE-RISKING & BANK DISCONTINUANCE FORUM” to discuss the impact of this practice in the Money Transfer, Remittance and Payment Industry as well as the U.S. depository institutions termination of correspondent accounts of foreign financial institutions (FFIs) as well as some US Banks forcing local bank account closures by their corresponding banks in many countries in the world.

Notes about IMTC ASIA 2016

Our September conference in Delhi was without a question of a doubt one of the most challenging conferences IMTC has done ever. It would take me many paragraphs to explain this statement, so I am not going to elaborate much more. But at the same time, it has been one of the most rewarding conferences due to the engagement of the attendees and the great feedback received. We had close to 100 attendees from 14 countries: US, UK, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Russia, UAE, Nepal, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Singapore, Israel and the host country, India. All Photos have been posted here.

HELPING REMITTANCE FAMILIES IN NEED

OVERSEAS WORKERS IN SAUDI ARABIA
When migrant workers are left stranded, should governments step in?

The situation in Saudi Arabia for overseas workers is critical. During the oil boom migrant workers went from 5.3M in 2000 to 10.2M in 2015 according to UN figures. More than 1M have lost their jobs in 2016 and remittances are dropping more than 20% every month compared to last year’s figures. Shivaji Sarkar wrote in The Pioneer: “The hiking petroleum price by producing nations itself had caused upheaval and as different energy sources are now being developed, it is leading to an Arabian night.” An Arabian night for the construction companies that are laying off thousands of workers and the OWs that they employ…

Commonwealth’s De-Risking Meeting in London

As we informed all our special Friday Newsletter to subscribers in the UK, the Commonwealth Secretariat invited the International Money Transfer & Payments Industry to the “Disconnecting from Global Finance: A Conversation on De-Risking” meeting that was programmed this past Thursday, August 10th at Marlborough House in London. The meeting was called following the release of the Commonwealth’s report “Disconnecting from Global Finance: The Impact of AML/CFT Regulations in Commonwealth Developing Countries”. Passions ran high at the meeting as money transfer businesses and smaller financial institutions complained about the “detrimental” decline in international banking for many businesses and individuals.

Remittances to the South Asia Region (SAR)

In his latest Remittances & Development Brief dated April 2016, Mr. Ratha and his team and the World Bank Migration and Remittances Team commented that remittances to the South Asia Region (SAR) are estimated to have grown moderately in 2015 by around 2%. The continued economic uncertainty of high-income remittance-source countries and the impact that oil prices have had on remittance flows from GCC countries have certainly impacted a more favorable outlook for 2016 and beyond. Maybe the improving economic prospects in the United States and the increase in oil prices, plus the continued spending on developments projects in the GCC countries and the brighter outlook for the economic improvement of their countries- which makes migrants invest in their home countries, can make the reported remittance volumes grow.

IMTC CUBA 2016: a breakthrough

The trust of the international financial sector, mainly all major remittance companies that have been coming to our conferences, was based on the belief that we could put this together, even if many hours were spent on the phone answering doubts and fears. They knew that we could bring together everyone in a spirit of collaboration, colleagues that even competing among themselves, can share a space and a time to build as an industry, a common future. I thank each and every one that came, a list that you can check here, and I value all the comments and warm words that we have been receiving for this historic event.

The Money Services Banking Crisis

To show how critical MSBs are to the functioning of the U.S. financial system, a 2013 Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. survey found 9.6 million U.S. households did not have bank accounts and 24.8 million households — 20 percent of the U.S. population — were underbanked, meaning they had bank accounts but also used alternative financial services outside of the banking system

Today, MSBs worldwide are caught in a banking crisis showing no signs of relenting. Based on real and imagined enforcement risks, most banks have categorically decided against providing accounts to MSBs, while others have been ordered by regulators to stop serving MSBs. This process of “de-risking,” by which banks terminate relationships with “high-risk” customers, has been brutal for the MSB industry and resulted in unforeseen consequences, including:

Migration & Remittances: Global Trends

On the occasion of the International Day of Family Remittances, June 16, 2016, KNOMAD, the WORLD BANK and IMTC invited the general public to a one-hour virtual session entitled: Migration & Remittances: Global Trends, Outlook and State of Play. Speakers were Dilip Ratha, Head, KNOMAD and Lead Economist, Migration and Remittances, World Bank and Hugo Cuevas-Mohr, Director, IMTC Conferences and Mohr World Consulting. Here are the Voice Recordings and the available transcripts.

We also want to THANK all the institutions that signed the pledge and we hope to make the IDFR 2017 a great success!
Part 1: Dilip Ratha | Part 2: Hugo Cuevas-Mohr | Part 3: 5 Questions with Answers

DÍA INTERNACIONAL DE LAS REMESAS FAMILIARES

sabes que el 16 de junio ha sido declarado el DÍA INTERNACIONAL DE LAS REMESAS FAMILIARES por 176 gobiernos en el mundo?

La primera celebración se llevó a cabo el año pasado en el GLOBAL FORUM ON REMITTANCES AND DEVELOPMENT, del 16 al 19 de junio en Milán, Italia como parte de la World Expo sobre alimentación. El Fondo Internacional para el Desarrollo Agrícola (IFAD), una agencia especializada de las Naciones Unidas, ha sido el promotor de este día internacional desde su inicio.

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FAMILY REMITTANCES-IDFR

Do you know that the 16th of June has been declared the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FAMILY REMITTANCES by 176 governments in the world?

The first celebration took place last year at the GLOBAL FORUM ON REMITTANCES AND DEVELOPMENT, June 16-19 , 2015 in Milan, Italy as part of the World Expo. IMTC was part of the celebration where the international community recognized the work of the private sector in facilitating the sending of remittances, in developing cost-effective and accessible financial transfer services, and encouraged the industry to link these flows to a range of financial services and products for migrants and their families.

The US CSBS & the MTRA Report on the State of MSBs Regulation & Supervision

The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the Money Transmitter Regulators Association (MTRA) released an important report on the state of the industry that is a must read for anyone in the industry and a report that all US Money Transmitters should be sending to their banks. The report is entitled “The state of state money services businesses regulation & supervision” and it examines the non-bank financial sector in the US and the bank discontinuance and de-risking challenges the industry faces. But the main objective is to let the banks know of the strict regulations and close supervision the state regulators have on all licensed MSBs.

Our industry, our image, our trade groups…

As I leave Barcelona after IMTC EMEA 2016 this past May 18-20 and I reflect on the industry, I can’t help but feel proud of the work we do at IMTC and the people we serve. Even talking with long-time industry warriors who are tired of the increasing complexity of the sector, I am a positive person and I can’t help but look back on where we started, around 30-35 years ago, and where we are now. Yes, we face many problems: bank discontinuance, regulatory inconsistency, a somewhat tainted image, weak trade groups, just to name a few. But we are a strong and growing sector with new products and services, new client sectors and technology developments that are impressive. Let’s take a partial look at ourselves…