Money transfer seems to be the most impacted segment by this new innovative digital wave. In this scenario, will traditional service providers get to surf and stay afloat? Will they stay relevant?
This brings us to UAE Exchange, a leading money transfer service provider, constantly in news with its recent foray into the fintech segment. It won the Emerging Digital Leader Award at the recent Digital Leader Awards ceremony held in Dubai, UAE. The fact that a 37-year old traditional money transfer brand won such an award, in spite of its long legacy, caught our attention. Business Review Middle East sought to understand how UAE Exchange Group serves as an antithesis of organisational gravity.
A financial conglomerate
UAE Exchange is part of a global financial services group serving more than 15mn customers.
The group handles 6.5% of the global remittances and 7.1% of foreign exchange through two category leaders – UAE Exchange and Travelex – in the group. Along with the two brands, the group is home to three others: Xpress Money, an instant money transfer brand; Remit2India, an online money transfer portal; and Ditto Bank, a fully digital bank regulated by ACPR in France and the ECB. The other services offered by the group include prepaid cards, salary disbursal solution and bill payments. Additionally, the group has banking licenses in Brazil, lending operations in India and other markets.
From its modest beginnings in 1980, UAE Exchange has come a long way. The group completed the acquisition of Travelex in 2015, followed by Remit2India, the portal for online money transfers to India. Asides this, the group has also made a series of investments in new age fintech start-ups.
The growth trajectory of the brand has always moved forward, backed by its innovative mix of products and services clubbed with excellent customer experience. From the very beginning it has been innovative with products like FLASHremit, the instant account credit facility, and gocash, the multi-currency prepaid card, among others. UAE Exchange has been progressive in its journey because of the aggressive investments made in technology. One of the early adopters of technology for process automation, UAE Exchange was among the first to build a large in-house IT function that engages in technology innovations, process and product enhancements. Along with the internal technology prowess, the brand also partners with experts like SAP, SunGard and Nice Actimize to enhance customer service, treasury and compliance functions, respectively.
The digital journey
Promoth Manghat, CEO of UAE Exchange Group, believes that it’s the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that has placed the group in a higher league. “Innovation has played a critical role in our success story. The culture of innovation is enriched by the strong values of integrity, commitment, empowerment and care. Currently, we are strengthening our service offerings using latest technology. Earlier this year, we launched our contactless wearable for gocash card in the UAE, the first ever company to launch a contactless wearable in the region under this category. This was followed by gocash app and the much-awaited online money transfer licence in the UAE, which is already available in 10 other countries.”
Understanding the dynamics of business, the group is investing heavily towards bringing together the right technology and partnerships. Detailing it further, Manghat says: “We have earmarked $250mn for digital investments. We are also an active participant in the fintech ecosystem, associating ourselves with accelerators, incubators, startups and academia in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Bahrain in Middle East; India, Singapore and China in Asia; USA and the UK.”
The group is committed to nurture and support fintech innovation. This commitment is backed by strategic partnerships and investments with startups. It has collaborated with various fintech start-ups, complementing experience and strategic investments with their fresh ideas to bring the best to customers. “We have invested in a series of enterprises including Loyyal on Blockchain, Sywch on virtual gifting, Souqalmal, a marketplace aggregator, and others,” informs Manghat.
Today the group is collaborating with some of the leading global fintech entities and multiple startup incubators to further its digital ambitions. It has associated with the likes of New York University’s StartAD, ADGM and the DIFC Fintech Hive to transform the fintech landscape regionally. Along with it the group has also built a state-of-the-art DigiLab at its global headquarters in Abu Dhabi, which is an innovation window showcasing the group’s digital assets.
Retail, a vital touch point
“Investments on digital doesn’t mean that our focus on retail has wavered,” Manghat points out. Currently the group has direct presence in 45 markets, while UAE Exchange and Travelex together have around 2,500 outlets globally. This, coupled with the complementary synergies that Travelex brings on board, multiplies technological prowess and economies of scale exponentially. Meanwhile Xpress Money, its instant money transfer arm, has presence in 160 countries with 200,000 agent locations.
Speaking on the importance of retail, Manghat says: “We cannot overlook the criticality of our physical presence as a brand nor the impact of this customer touch point. Hence retail will continue to feature at the top of all our plans. Meanwhile retail is strongly transforming from being hi-touch to hi-tech and we are emerging into a sort of an aggregator of payments and bringing a differently enriching customer experience. To further enhance our global footprint, we have also acquired a series of businesses in South Africa, Singapore and Brazil.”