This May, the city of Istanbul will play host to the International Money Transfer Conference or IMTC EMEA 2015. The conference will be held at the Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel on May 25-27th 2015, and will bring together all the players dealing in money transfer globally. In recent years, businesses involved in money transfer have come to include a heterogeneous mix of telcos, banks, mobile network operators, as well as the latest kid on the block, Bitcoin remittance startups.
Global Remittance – A Growth Industry
Global remittance is a growth industry. According to World Bank statistics, the flow of remittances could grow from US$586 billion in 2015 to US$ 636 billion in 2017. This is in spite of the declining price of oil and sluggish European growth. Most of the growth in remittance will come from the growing number of immigrants, which is estimated to be more than 250 million by the end of 2015.
But of particular interest to the Bitcoin community is the focus that IMTC 2015 gives on digital payments. The first day of the conference will feature MTBIT with the theme “Blockchains and Remittances.” Bitcoin companies will be invited to showcase their remittance products and services, as well as network with other market players, in a bid to develop and integrate the global remittance market.
Hugo Cuevas-Mohr, one of the conference organizers and a Director at IMTC describes the conference as a forum where
“all the institutions that are part of this large heterogeneous family converge to develop partnerships and discuss the challenges and opportunities that exist in the different markets around the world. Technology is changing everything and digital, online/mobile channels, are offering great solutions and the industry is very dynamic now.”
CCN interviewed Mr. Mohr on the upcoming IMTC 2015 in Turkey and here is what he had to say:
What would you say is the theme of the Istanbul conference?
The major theme is the challenges and opportunities in the Remittances or International Money Transfer Industry. It is a business conference where delegates meet, network, share their knowledge, develop partnerships. From Banks to large Money Transfer Networks and all types of large or small financial services that cater the migrants and their families and anyone that needs to send or receive funds in one country from another. You have the traditional cash-based services, the new and emerging mobile and online innovators and the blockchain-based pioneers.
How big a role do you see digital currencies like Bitcoin playing in the remittance market?
I don’t like to talk too much about the future. IMTC is more focused on what is working now and moving companies and services a step at a time. Of course, I see that Bitcoin can play a large role, and that is why we have developed MTBIT, as a way to help make it happen. When a Bitcoin Exchange decides to develop an international money transfer service is faced with a choice. Do we let clients just handle the transfer of bitcoins on their own or do we intervene and make it easier, more appealing to a larger constituency and providing a user experience that makes it really happen? We want to help the ones that make a choice to intervene!
Remittance through Bitcoin has been able to coin its new word, rebittance. Do you foresee rebittance completely disrupting the global remittance market, or will it settle to become one of the alternatives? Please elaborate.
No, I don’t see it completely disrupting a well-established, complex system of interconnecting parts that is the MT Industry. Look, Online/Mobile Remittances are an emerging channel that is still new in the industry, providing a growing but still a minor role in the overall industry space. Rebittance will move in, will disrupt corridors provided that the Bitcoin firms do a good job partnering with existing rails, understanding the needs of the clients they serve without assuming that because they might be cheaper consumers will use their channel. It takes work, persistence, fine-tuning, making mistakes and correcting them. I see the industry made of waves coming in ashore, one after the other… if I can be poetic.
Most remittance funds are meant for domestic consumption. What other uses of remittance funds would you like to see developing?
I am a Marketing person by heart. I like to go to the client and see what he/she wants, why, when, and then create the possibilities and the opportunities. I see companies developing great products for uses they think are great and then realize that a brilliant idea is not always what the consumer needs or wants. But having said that, besides the P2P, person to person nature of most remittances, P2B services like International Bill payment, or pension and commission distribution, B2P services, are being developed and that’s a great new frontier for the remittance industry.
Are there any other uses of the technology behind bitcoin, i.e. blockchain technology, that you see having potential applications in the global remittance market?
Yes. I have been blown away by the creativity behind some of the ideas that these new protocols are coming out with. But I think that blockchain-based systems like Ripple and Stellar, and more that we will probably see coming on, have a great opportunity to develop more closed-loop systems that might be easier for some established companies to tap, use and develop.