FinovateFall 2022: Q&A with MoneyGram chairman and CEO Alex Holmes
With the start of the FinovateFall 2022 conference in New York, FinTech Futures chats with MoneyGram chairman and CEO Alex Holmes to get his views on the evolution of cross-border money movement, emerging tech trends in the payments space and what the future holds for the industry.
FinTech Futures: It’s great to see you at FinovateFall this year, have you attended the conference before? And what are you most looking forward to?
Alex Holmes: This is my first time speaking at FinovateFall. I’m particularly excited to attend the conference to continue to broaden our knowledge around current fintech industry trends as well as share my own insights in a fireside chat with Daniel Webber, founder and CEO at FXC Intelligence, on Wednesday, 14 September.
As a global leader in the payments industry, it’s imperative that we stay ahead of industry trends, many of which will be discussed at FinovateFall. I’m excited to see which topics are highlighted and to hear more about what others are doing in the fintech space to further innovation.
I’m very much looking forward to my fireside chat with Daniel, a leading influencer in the global payments space internationally, where we’ll be discussing trends in the payments industry and how we (as an industry) must continue to adapt to meet new consumer needs.
Taking a look at global money transfers then, how has the industry evolved in recent years with increased digitisation and more businesses and people sending money across borders?
Across the payments industry and beyond, we’re seeing a permanent shift to digital.
Historically, migrants have sent money home by going into a retail location with cash to send money to their family and friends who receive the money at another retailer in cities around the world. For the past 80+ years, MoneyGram has facilitated these remittances through one of the largest and strongest global retail networks in the world with over 430,000 retail locations worldwide – nearly four-times the locations of Starbucks, McDonalds and Subway combined.
The pandemic helped accelerate a major digital shift across the industry in 2020, and that momentum has clearly continued to this day. Consumers and businesses around the world are increasingly seeking frictionless customer experiences, digital options and capabilities, and opportunities to transact from the comfort of their own homes. In a customer survey we conducted at the end of last year, 63% of respondents indicated that they used more apps and digital tools in 2021 than in the previous year.
How has MoneyGram adapted to these changes and what digital transformation initiatives have you looked to implement to keep up with new developments?
I’m thankful that MoneyGram’s digital transformation journey began well before the pandemic forced our hand. Our proactive approach and hard work laid a solid foundation enabling us to quickly pivot as customer behavior increasingly shifted online.
By 2020, MoneyGram had already overhauled its IT infrastructure, modernised its APIs and streamlined its operating model to support the growth of digital. We built a direct-to-consumer digital channel with an immersive digital experience, including our website and mobile app.
This strategy met a tidal wave of online consumer demand as MoneyGram’s digital transactions now represent about 44% of our overall money transfer transactions, making the company’s digital channel the fastest-growing component of the business.
How do you think the challenging current global economic landscape and rising inflation will impact money transfers and the wider industry?
Even with the current global economic landscape, remittance consumers remain resilient, as they have concerns over the economy but expect to continue sending money to support loved ones.
In a recent customer survey we did, over 80% of respondents reported concerns about a potential recession and global inflation, but the overwhelming majority (98%) say they plan to continue sending money back home throughout the rest of the year.
How will new technologies like blockchain and crypto impact the payments space going forward?
Looking ahead, we believe blockchain has the potential to change how money moves around the world, and digital currencies have the potential to change the way we view money itself.
Many have predicted that these technologies would pose a threat to traditional financial services, but MoneyGram has decided to play a part of that change. MoneyGram was the first company to utilise blockchain technology at scale for cross-border payments, and we are one of the only companies in the industry pursuing strategic and innovative partnerships in the space.
We believe that crypto and digital currencies are an important part of the evolution of the world but that we are a long way from adopting cryptocurrencies for utilisation in everyday life. There are core barriers to further growth, such as lack of utility, expense of exchanges, and any real on/off ramps to local fiat currencies. We’re working to solve that.
For example, MoneyGram recently launched a partnership with the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) that creates a first-of-its-kind global on/off-ramp service for digital wallets to increase the utility of digital assets by creating a bridge between cash and cryptocurrencies.