The UAE’s remittances market is booming. Do you expect to see that growth continue in 2015?
The UAE has always remained a vibrant economy even in times of difficulty and remittances have remained on a growth trail. We are confident the growth will continue at a stable pace in 2015 too and our evaluation is that the need for skilled and unskilled migrant workers will increase in the context of the current developments underway in the UAE. We anticipate a 15-20 per cent growth in our business in 2015.
What are the biggest challenges that the industry faces here?
Exclusivity agreements remain a constant challenge for the remittance industry at large. In such an arrangement, money exchange houses can only partner with one money transfer service provider at a time. Exclusivity agreements limit competition, distort pricing and thereby prevent an Money Transfer Operator (MTO) from achieving their goals of affordability and efficiency to a consumer.
In the Middle East, Central Bank of Oman has taken the initial step of discontinuing the exclusivity agreement in September 2010 that has helped boost competition and an open market in Oman. Many other countries such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania also have followed suit in curtailing monopolies.
The achievement of this goal can be further made easier if the remittance industry can catalyse heightened awareness among regulators, governments and international bodies about the contribution of remittances to global economies, and push for an end to exclusivity and monopolistic practices.
With around 120 players, is the local money exchange industry too saturated?
The UAE in the past two decades has become one of the most prominent migrating hubs, not only in the Middle East but also the world over. As a result, the remittance market in the country has boomed, leading many remittance players to enter the market in the last two to three years. So the competition is healthy and the customer has a lot of choice when he/she decides to remit. This is a positive trend, which benefits the customer.
What are the new trends expected within the industry?
The two major trends expected within the industry are:
1. Increase in the number of skilled workforce
With all the groundwork in process for the Dubai Expo 2020, the demand for skilled migrants has increased. Estimates suggest that more than 255,000 employment opportunities will be created in Dubai alone, thanks to the World Expo 2020. This increase in the number of skilled workforce has led to an increase in the value of transactions.
2. Reduction in remittance cost
The cost of remittances has reduced considerably due to entry of new MTOs, open remittance architecture in certain markets and the introduction of innovative services. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are ideal examples where cost of sending money is the lowest, thanks to competition between MTOs.
Besides these two major trends, there is also an emerging trend of alternate channels of remittance from the send markets, which, according to the latest World Bank Report 2014, will have a significant influence on further lowering the remittance costs.
What is the current focus for your company? Are you looking at launching any new services or expanding operations in 2015?
We aim to be to be present in every part of the world by end of 2015. We have already entered some of the biggest receive markets such as China and Mexico in 2014. In 2015, we will be looking to fortify our presence in the Latin American countries and also in China, apart from opening up more countries for business.
Our focus will also be on growing alternate channels such as Mobile Wallets and Online Money Transfer – we launched our m-Pesa service to Kenya last year which has seen huge acceptance and business growth, so we are keenly looking to grow this segment and offer it many more markets.
Apart from network expansion plans, we also intend to work towards migrant training and orientation programmes. The brand is active on creating financial literacy through a lot of grassroot initiatives in multiple markets. CSR and community engagement too, will be things that we will be involved in.
Will you be hiring in the next six months?
As and when the business requires, we will look to recruit more people for our team.
What’s your leadership style?
I am a firm believer that a leader is as good as his/her team. I like to lead by example and try to motivate my team to perform to the best of their abilities and deliver their best. I am passionate about Xpress Money and the work we do; in all my interactions with the team I look to transfer some of that passion on to them.
What makes the perfect employee?
A perfect employee would be one who is willing to put their best foot forward, and take on challenges in an ever changing business environment. Someone with a can-do attitude and initiative is someone who can be an asset to any team.
Three tips for becoming the boss…
I am more of a mentor, than a boss. So my answers are from that point of view –
– Always be a student – Have a hunger for gaining knowledge, keep learning about your line of business and industry constantly.
– Be empathetic – A team is made of people, and one can drive the team towards business excellence, however, one should not forget the human element involved.
– Lead by example – As the head of an organisation, your team looks up to you for guidance and inspiration. It is a huge responsibility, which in my opinion can be managed by leading the team by setting an example for them.