Reaching and connecting unbanked immigrants in the U.S. and overseas
By Saul Wolf, Remittances Manager, World Council of Credit Unions
Three years ago, I asked myself: what is the future of World Council of Credit Unions’ remittances program IRnet®? At the time, we were losing market share to banks with much deeper pockets, had lost a valuable partner to a corporate merger and saw declining profit margins. Today I am happy to report: mobile is an answer.
In 2012, World Council partnered with Boom Financial, a socially responsible tech startup, to offer an international mobile remittance solution, the first of its kind. Since launching last October on International Credit Union Day, Boom has transferred well into seven figures worth of remittances between credit unions in the U.S. and Haiti.
Boom employees test out depositing cash on their new high-tech van. Photo courtesy of Boom Financial.
Boom vans are an effective complementary outreach strategy to their retail locations. Photo courtesy of Boom Financial
Boom is more than a remittance solution. It’s a mobile banking platform for immigrant workers and their families, many of whom are unbanked.
In addition to remittance transfers, Boom offers immigrant-orientated solutions such as a prepaid Visa card, remote check capture and direct deposit.
It has relationships with large U.S. cash-in-cash-out (mostly retail) payment networks, which are all accessible via mobile and/or plastic.
In Haiti where cards infrastructure is lacking, Boom is accessible through mobile, 68 networked credit union branch locations via shared branching, and, eventually, through other domestic mobile money providers to facilitate all types of payments including remittances.
Boom also goes to where immigrants live and work. In fact, 100% of Boom’s U.S. customers, all of whom become credit union members upon receiving funds, are acquired outside the branch using their retail and mobile vans.
By bringing bundled financial services to immigrants, Boom has made a long-term platform bet that relationship banking will change the economics of extending financial services down the economic pyramid. It combines multiple product offerings and revenue streams to encourage customer stickiness and help justify the acquisition cost of a normally overlooked market segment that largely deals in cash.
Boom isn’t a technology vendor selling the latest and greatest. Boom leverages networked credit unions as distribution partners for a product they manage. Unlike remittance firms which profit from the float generated by (temporarily) holding consumer funds, Boom customer funds are held in demand deposit accounts by credit unions in both countries.
Yet, Boom isn’t integrated into the credit union core software in either country. These technology and business model differences mean Boom offers a less expensive way for credit unions to be involved in mobile and also allows them to innovate in a uniquely cooperative way that banks likely cannot follow—by working together as networked financial institutions for the common good. World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries.