Hugo is a writer, a conference speaker, an event producer, an inquisitive panel moderator and an opinionated consultant in cross-border services industries and a mentor with vast experience, who speaks English, Spanish, French and who loves to run, bike, swim... and walk over long distances.

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.

CIASEFIM-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

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…

The Best Bank De-Risking Metaphor

In the past IMTC BRASIL 2016 in Sao Paulo, Leonardo Costa made a presentation available in our Download Section entitled Nueva Guia GAFI Prestadores Servicios Transferencia Dinero Valores about the FATF – GAFI February 2016 document on the GUIDANCE FOR A RISK-BASED APPROACH for MONEY OR VALUE TRANSFER SERVICES. The Guidance in Page 46 (#125) urges the Banks to “not resort…

MONEY TRANSFER COMPANIES WIN A MATCH AGAINST BANKS IN BRUSSELS

The Spanish Courts petitioned the European Tribunal for a guidance to clarify Bank Account Closure Cases and the presumption of remittances being high risk

Our IMTC speaker and colleague Antonio Selas from the firm Cremades & Calvo Sotelo in Madrid has been preventing Banks from closing bank accounts of MTOs in Spain by taking to court the banks and convincing judges that Banks are discriminating against their competitors and that their “remittances are high risk” argument has no factual evidence. We met Antonio Selas in IMTC EMEA 2015 in Istanbul and he came to Miami and made a presentation in IMTC WORLD 2015 entitled “Bank Account Closures Are Against the Law“.

The MTBIT Forum in 2016: Remittances, Blockchains & Bitcoin

I developed the MTBIT FORUM in 2015 with the help of Andrew Ittleman, a Miami Attorney who represents companies and individuals in highly regulated sectors in the US and Greta Geankoplis, a fintech leader and industry trailblazer, both members of the IMTC Advisory Board. The forum was conceived as a chance for entrepreneurs, start-ups and project developers using blockchain-based protocols, for international money transfers, remittances & payments, to meet, network and share the challenges they face while at the same time discussing the realistic opportunities available in the industry.

FATF-GAFI GUIDANCE – A Risk-Based Approach for Money or Value Transfer Services

The timing could not have been better. FATF just published – February 2016, a report that all Compliance Officers of this industry must read, entitled Guidance for a Risk-Based Approach for Money or Value Transfer Services (SummaryFull Report (69 pages). I want to highlight three statements in the presentation of the report:

  • The risk-based approach, the cornerstone of the FATF Standards, requires that measures to combat ML/TF are commensurate with the risks. Such measures should not necessarily result into the categorization of all MVTS providers as inherently high-risk.
  • The overall risks and threats are influenced by the extent and quality of regulatory and supervisory framework, as well as the implementation of risk-based controls and mitigating measures by each MVTS provider.
  • While this Guidance is applicable to the entire MTVS sector (both banking and non-banking institutions offering MVTS); it is primarily intended for non-banking MVTS providers.

GAO Reports on International Remittances

I think it is very important that every person in this industry reads the GAO Report published on February 16th, 2016, entitled INTERNATIONAL REMITTANCES: Actions Needed to Address Unreliable Official U.S. Estimate – Highlights Page (1 page), Full Report (62 pages). A second report published the same day is entitled INTERNATIONAL REMITTANCES: Money Laundering Risks and Views on Enhanced Customer Verification and Record keeping RequirementsHighlights Page (1 page), Full Report (59 pages), Accessible Version (62 pages).

The 10 Most Important Issues – 2015 Edition – 10

Hugo Cuevas-Mohr puts together every year the 10 Most important Issues for the industry. To download the PDF go to Download/IMTC Publications.

Bitcoin, as a remittance tool, is now being used by a few pioneer firms, while the overall acceptance of the blockchain protocol as a significant invention has shifted the rhetoric about VCs for the better. With MTBIT, at IMTC, we have been actively seeking individuals and firms using blockchain protocols to offer solutions to cross-border customers.