The news  January 2nd didn’t come as a surprise for the industry as President Trump has criticized China for its trade and currency policies and its “America First” slogan has been the damocle’s sword hanging over the deal. We analyzed the deal in a past blog explaining the US Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) involvement in these kinds of deals. It is not the first time MoneyGram is not allowed to be bought. When Western Union was trying to buy it, the deal was stopped to prevent the creation of a monopoly.
In a recent Press Release, the Money Services Business Association (MSBA) – the US trade association that represents the growing non-bank money services industry, announced the formation of a new Board of Directors, a new Chairman of the Board and new Board members. The MSBA named Viamericas Corporation CEO Paul Dwyer as its new Chairman, succeeding Alberto Laureano, CEO of Barri Financial Group.
For IMTC WORLD in Miami this past November, I decided to present my estimates on the size of the international Money Transfer and X-Border Payments industry, coming to a figure of approximately 1,025 billion USD, based on private communications with industry players and my own analysis (INFOGRAPHIC). The estimate starts from the 600B estimated by the World Bank on Remittance Volumes and adds estimates on unreported remittances, x-border money transfers that don’t fall in the strict “remittance” category (see definition below) and B2B & B2C transfers handled by the industry, by companies using Hawala-Type Methods and newcomers using VCs . If you want some detail about how this estimate was calculated, please read below or download this PDF to read.
On November 15th, the Financial Services Advisor, a Newsletter published by The Interamerican Dialogue, a Washington, DC think tank where well-known remittance expert Manuel Orozco is the Director of the Migration, Remittances and Development Program, has published a Q&A entitled What Is Driving Remittances to the Region? where Manuel and several colleagues – including myself, most obliged, gave their views to questions such as What are the most important factors driving remittances to the region? How likely is it that the United States will impose a new tax on remittances?
These are a summary of the answers published:
We thank our colleague Carlos Grossman, for the report out of Chile where the Antimonopoly Division of the National Economic Prosecutor Office (División Antimonopolios de la Fiscalía Nacional Económica – FNE) reports the investigation that took place after an August 2015 complaint by a Forex Firm denouncing seven banks of denying the opening of a bank account. The investigation and the conclusions are very important for the industry worldwide and Mr. Grossman has provided us with the report, so it can be read and used by any company in the industry that is been denied an account.
Let’s first remember. In April 15, 2017, Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Financial (Ant) agreed to purchase MoneyGram International, Inc. (MGI) for $18 per share. Ant, which is controlled by the famous Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, increased its price from $13.25 to $18 after RIA’s Euronet put in a bid for $15.20. In order for the deal to pass, the companies need approval from CFIUS.
What is CFIUS? The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Is CFIUS under the watchful eyes of Mr. Trump? Are his America First policies at play here? Yes, definitively.
And we know in the industry, that US RIA’s Euronet is keeping a close eye on that decision. We all are. If the deal goes through every company in the industry will be more valuable… But let’s analyze the situation…
I am going to venture myself to write this article on Compliance, with the disclaimer that I am not a compliance professional and that the idea behind this is to get compliance colleagues to comment and compliance officers to pay attention.
Talking last week to a fintech company about their payment processing services in Mexico, i.e. bank deposits, one of their key selling points was that they do identity matching on every bank deposit that they process through Mexico’s SPEI System. They explained why, using a technology solution, this fintech was the only institution in Mexico that could positively match the name of the account holder with the bank account number or CLABE.
Knowing this fact, it raised in my head all types of questions.
On Friday, September 22nd, we closed our first Africa Conference. As I mentioned to all participants, the whole process of developing the conference was, from the start, an uphill race, surmounting obstacles and convincing sceptics. But just days before the event, the pieces of the puzzle came in together and a bright and inspiring panorama opened.
Our pre-conference field trip day planned by the IMTC’s team of Paulina & Claudia and Olivia and Rachel from Safaricom M-Pesa and it was executed to perfection. Our aim was to give industry professionals a hands-on experience on the M-PESA product. Many of us have for years spoken about M-PESA with no real personal experience on the merits and details of the service.
How De-Risking is changing the face of Financial Services worldwide
In July 6th & 8th the Economist published two articles that, again, raised the de-risking threat discussion to new levels. The July 6th article was entitled “The great unbanking  – Swingeing fines have made banks too risk-averse – It is time to rethink anti-money-laundering rules” and the July 8th one: “Rolling up the welcome mat  – A crackdown on financial crime means global banks are derisking – Charities and poor migrants are among the hardest hit”. For us in the “low-income financial services provider’s sector”  the challenges, from regulatory pressures, rise in compliance costs and most of all, de-risking, are a survival issue.
This article is a broad view of de-risking, my opinions on some of the most recent developments that I have been reading, hearing and witnessing recently as we prepare for the “De-Risking Forum” on Nov 30 at IMTC WORLD 2017 in Miami. For detailed analysis on de-risking, its causes and the implications for FIs, you can find many great articles & documents online.
Leon is a seasoned expert and business leader in the payments, remittances and money transfer industry. He has over 25 years hands-on experience and since 2007 has led DMA, Developing Markets Associates, a development consultancy based in the UK that provides a broad range of services that helps to mobilise funds into developing markets.
Leon is very active in Mobile Payments policy design and data collection, research into remittance market trends, pricing and new product development, consumer remittance price and quality comparison, financial literacy programmes to remittance receivers, diaspora outreach and diaspora investment analysis and programme design.
How the financial crisis, the evolution of Banking and Unbanking and the rise of technology in financial services are all connected
The financial crisis and the rise of technology in financial services, that has led to an increase in the importance of NBFIs (Non-Bank Financial Institutions) in the provision of financial services, has created a number of challenging situations that might seem unconnected but could be associated to the evolution of a new world financial order.
We will explore in this article two books, discuss small loans by NBFIs, mention the work of a California-based fintech and close with links to introduce our next blog, how the unbanking or derisking is also phase of the struggles we are facing as an industry and a major challenge for NBFIs all over the world.
The more I learn about money transfer comparison websites, the more I am fascinated by the results that they provide. And they are getting better and better, and they are each finding a way to present their information and develop their own character. Are they being used by end-users? Who, how? Are they been used by companies to see how the competition is pricing themselves compared to them? How consistent are the best priced companies?
All those questions are probably in your mind. I can’t answer all of them but by the end of your read you’ll probably have a better idea of this new side of this industry.
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.
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).
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?
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)
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…
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!
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.
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
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…
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.
“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.
“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.
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…
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.
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.
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 2016 “DE-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 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.
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.