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.

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.

The 10 Most Important Issues – 2015 Edition – 9

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

The rise of P2B, B2B, and Forex services in the industry is making the “Payments” side of the International Money Transfer & Payments Industry more dynamic and more important, overall, with new services, new entrants and new offerings. The P2P money transfer and remittance market has been historically closely linked to the Forex Market, although regulations in many countries, as well as currency controls due to AML compliance concerns, broke the bond and led to the demise of many Forex firms, most prominently, the “casas de cambio” in Latin America.

The 10 Most Important Issues – 2015 Edition – 8

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

The continued decline in the price of oil is affecting remittances worldwide, although the effects are varied, depending on the region of the world. But even if oil prices fell to their lowest levels in a decade, remittance outflows from the GCC were not heavily impacted during 2015. Remittances to Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen, with over 70% coming from the GCC, were not affected.

The 10 Most Important Issues – 2015 Edition – 7

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

It was a good year for Mergers & Acquisitions (M&As) in the IMTC&P Industry, with the most notable news coming from the U.S: The July, 2015, $890M deal for the purchase of XOOM by PayPal. You can google hundreds of news articles on PayPal’s acquisition of Xoom or read the SEC merger report.

The 10 Most Important Issues – 2015 Edition – 6

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

The digital race heats up in the U.S. with the entrance of World Remit and TransferWise into the U.S. market, while Western Union opens up online channels in Europe. SaveOnSend articles, written by Alexey Artamonov and his multinational team, are probably one of the best sources to explore the rise of TransferWise and its initial strategy in Europe.

The 10 Most Important Issues – 2015 Edition – 5

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

Digital IMT&Ps are continuing to increase their market share as investors and bankers favor online/mobile channels. At IMTC WORLD 2015’s M&A roundtables, the message was clear: Investors and bankers are favoring digital channels, overwhelmingly, and not only is the valuation of digital money transfer companies very high, but there is very small interest in the investment world for investing in traditional agent-based MTOs.

The 10 Most Important Issues – 2015 Edition – 4

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

Mobile Money Services continue to expand across the developing world with new cross-border functionalities, systems integrations, partnerships, and regulatory advances for the industry. Domestic use of mobile transfer services spreads. The Global Mobile Systems Association (GMSA) reports that mobile money industry continues to expand globally, with more than 250 live mobile money services in nearly 90 countries.

The 10 Most Important Issues – 2015 Edition – 3

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

Price to the public of industry services have been fairly stable during the year. MTOs interviewed have seen a slight upward trend even though they state that competition in every channel is fierce, more so in the exchange spread than in the fees. According to Remittance Prices Worldwide (RPW), the global average cost of sending remittances (including all fees and charges) remained basically the same in 2015 with a slight downward trend. RPW reports that the global average was 7.72% in 1Q, 7.68% in 2Q,  7.52% in 3Q and 7.37% in 4Q – a change of – 0.35% for the year).

The 10 Most Important Issues – 2015 Edition – 2

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

Bank discontinuance and de-risking of MSBs/MTOs/money transmitters is still a major global problem industry-wide, but we think there has been a slight shift in the discussion with reports, regulations, and statements being published that gives us a sense of the issue moving forward; the small positive steps might seem irrelevant to a number of companies caught with limited or no banking relationships.

The 10 Most Important Issues – 2015 Edition – 1

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

Although the volume of International Money Transfer & Payments (IMT&Ps) continues to increase, the percentage increase YTY has slowed down. According to the World Bank and Knomad, in their latest Brief #25, the growth rate of remittances to developing countries is projected to fall from 3.3% in 2014 to 2% in 2015 (down from 7% in 2010-2013). The slower growth rate is not uniform at all since the sharp decrease in remittances from Russia and slower growth in the Middle East significantly affected the global average.

The new MONEY SERVICE BUSINESS ASSOCIATION – MSBA – is announced in the US

The organizing committee, in its first public announcement, stated: “The MSBA is a trade association focused on the non-bank money services industry, including licensed money transmitters and their agents/authorized delegates, payment card issuers and distributors, payment processors, international remittance companies, bill payment companies, mobile payment application providers, payment aggregators, virtual currency exchanges and administrators, eWallet providers…

The Periodic Table of Remittances

Faisal Khan, a Banking, Payments & Fintech Consultant in Dubai has compiled an impressive list of everything related to Money Transfers that he has collected graphically in a Periodic Table of Remittances. The impressive list of around 160 items has been divided in categories such as Comparison Sites, Influential Regulators,Platforms, Emerging Players, Incumbent Players, Payment Networks, Niche Players, Data Sources, People, Software, Airtime Transfers, Conferences, Forums, Blogs…

IMTC EMEA 2015: a huge success

IMTC EMEA 2015 ended last week with more than 160 participants beating all our expectations. We are very thankful with our great sponsors and the speakers who delivered very interesting presentations – downloads available from our IMTC site, and and shared their knowledge and opinions in the panels in our plenaries. We thank also the great…

Will Western Union Buy MoneyGram?

Even if the news were quenched, the debate lingers

The news gained momentum on May 5th when Bloomberg reported that WU was in talks with MGI. Immediately MGI shares shoot up almost 40% and WU shares also went up slightly. My phone started ringing with investment advisor asking for my opinion. I had little to say, really. But the following day…

LEBANON: Remittance Inflows & Outflows

Remittances of Lebanese expatriates increased from USD $7.86B in 2013 to $8.9B in 2014, up 13.2%. The World Bank attributed the increase in remittances in part to those sent to Syrian refugees in Lebanon by their relatives abroad. Although the data for outflows from the country has only been published until June 2014, in 2013 it reached a level very close to 5 Billion USD (same level in 2009, maximum ever recorded).

The House Financial Services Committee Letters

Just two weeks after the end of our IMTC USA 2015 Conference in Las Vegas, where we had a great panel on Bank Discontinuance entitled “Financial Access for the Money Transfer Industry – One step forward, two steps back? brilliantly moderated by Connie Fenchel with panelists Deborah Thoren-Peden from Pillsbury Law and Thomas Fleming from TF & Associates, the Republican leaders on the US House Financial Services Committee sent letters to the federal financial regulatory agencies asking to publicly disavow their “past, present, and future involvement in Operation Choke Point or any similar operation”. You can read the OCC letter here: http://bit.ly/1aP00Nu.