This past November in Miami, we celebrated 10 years of IMTC, with an event that we all are very proud of, IMTC WORLD 2019. This year it marked a record in the number of participants and sponsors, but most of all we had a great diversity in companies & institutions that keep on opening our scope of connecting payment systems across borders.
In the ten years that we have been working on this event, we have seen the industry change profoundly. Yes, we still find some of the same challenges that we had ten years ago, but the evolution of the industry has been quite significant. In this short article, I want to pinpoint my take on IMTC WORLD 2019 and the ten years that got us here, the sketching of the conference’s panels and roundtables, and the many talks I had on the sidelines -which by the way is the essence of IMTC. I hope to hear from you, your own experience as I hope this blog serves as an opening to other collegaues to share their views.
It seems that today there are fewer remittance companies in the US and, at the same time, there are more money transmitters than ever before. With consolidation in the market, many of the participants that have been coming since IMTC’s first events, understandingly feel a bit lost now with funny comments like: “Hugo, who are all these people?”. We have outgrown our space and now “Connecting Payment Systems across borders” has become our motto.
Networking is the primary reason why participants attend an IMTC event. I would like to meet all of the participants that come and, I certainly take the time to review the participant list and connect with some of the new people and companies that I don’t know before the event, only to be amazed by the services & products they offer. A mostly US & Latin-American event has given room to a broader global event -although we feel we still have room to grow in the participation of companies from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. This year we had the many participants with refused visas, and that weighs heavy on me.
This year, the Trade Fair and the VIP Office Lounge were the largest ever and every single space was taken. There was a total of 54 companies exhibiting, sponsoring, partnering and attending to visitors, and we have already companies booking for all of our events in 2020.
The (r)evolution of the cross-border transfer & payments landscape is quite amazing; there are many more companies now than ever and much more diversity. The past “uniformity” has practically disappeared. From the traditional agent-office-cash-based companies to the online companies that are bringing so many services & products, both in the sending side -most of them- than in the receiving side, aggregators, B2B companies and Forex brokers, payment processors, regtech firms, mobile networks, technology providers from software, cloud, mobile-based to kiosks, and ATMs, all the way to the new blockchain protocols and virtual company providers.
Note: I take the (r)evolution statement for this past 7th edition of LABITCONF the Latinamerican Blockchain & Bitcoin event in Montevideo (great event by the way!) where I moderated a panel on bridges between the crypto world and the financial sector that you can see here: https://youtu.be/7Fnaw0oCO-Y
Bank-Non-Bank partnerships are now everywhere, and we see this as a trend that began 2-3 years ago. Past worries on the professionalism of the non-bank cross-border transfer & payments sector, in terms of compliance and IT, have faded with the development of better practices and enhanced due diligence processes, as well as independent reviews that made the industry safer as a whole. Better software systems – and the ones being developed, are decisively contributing now. Challenges will always exist in this area, but we feel proud to have contributed with our Money Transfer Certification Course (MTCC), our Compliance panels and breakouts, and our innovation focus, in the advancement of better standards and excellence.
This year, we launched our MTCC Course Online to give many more people the opportunity to experience what others have in our classroom courses at the conferences. With more online courses to follow and conferences on Compliance, Regtech, and Regulation (called Regliance) coming in Miami in June 2020, we will continue forward.
There were 32 US & international banks represented this year at IMTC WORLD 2019, the largest number of Banks present ever in the past ten years with 72 delegates present. Partnering is the main reason for these banks to participate than providing banking services for the sector. Derisking is still present but the Banks that came to IMTC looking for MSB clients to attend their banking needs are open for business. Banks are pickier than ever, that is a fact with their risk managers and directors dictating the companies they prefer, the services & products they feel more comfortable with, etc.
The presence and eagerness of fintech companies to engage in business is exciting. Almost every colleague from a fintech firm that came to IMTC WORLD, especially the newer ones, explained that IMTC participants were mostly interested in talking business. At other events were fintechs participate, they signaled that hype revolves around the future, the potential and that at IMTC they had to deal with the now: the services or products they offered (or they needed!). Simple and direct: what you want and/or what you offer, what is this partnership about.
With companies such as Ripple and IBM Blockchain partnering with companies and banks, we are foreseeing what will become the financial rails of the future. Others such as Earthport, Visa, Bitspark, are offering new interconnection and settlement systems. The future is here, it is happening.
Our Innovation Forum, in partnership with Yokip Consulting and Cosmo Element, will indeed mature and develop further in the coming year as we launch our Innovation Committee to find the people and companies that want to help us in getting better with this rising focus. If you want in, just contact us. We will start working in January, also planning the 2020 Remtech Awards at the GFRID2020 in Nairobi, Kenya in June.
The Social Sphere
As companies and institutions in our sector try to differentiate themselves in a market that becomes commoditized, new services and products are appearing with a vision of serving customers with a broader range of benefits. Banks are interested in developing financial inclusion and their mobile challengers want to do the same, keeping the customers in a digital ecosystem where their money moves and where the on and off cash ramps exist in a fluid manner. For payment companies that exist in a very plain transactional world, this differentiation is a must.
Our work with IFAD and the RemTech Awards, which initially was part of our fintech initiative is now inching closer with the need to look at the importance of payments to socio-economic communities, as we experience ourselves in IMTC AFRICA in Kenya in 2017 and 2018. This coming September in IMTC ASIA 2020 in Vietnam we will indeed experience this once again.
We are pursuing stronger connections with the academic world and the presence at IMTC WORLD of P. Sabith Khan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at California Lutheran University (PhD in Planning, Governance and Globalization from Virginia Tech) was encouraging and we can’t wait on the book he will be publishing on remittances.
IMTC LATAM 2020
We start this coming year with our conference in Buenos Aires in May 5-7. After meetings in Buenos Aires and Montevideo last week with our LATAM partner Daniel Trías from DT Consultores, we are eager to start the planning process, engage sponsors, speakers and partners to develop a great event. Nobody can predict the future of Argentina with its new government, what might happen in Chile or Brasil, but opportunities abound. Save the Date!