International funds-transfer providers have begun to acknowledge that most consumers in their remittance-heavy target markets use mobile phones as a primary tool. As such, services that require visits to a physical location or access to a personal computer are unlikely to catch on, some insiders say.
“Lots of our customers use mobile phones,” says Julian King, senior vice president at online funds-transfer company Xoom Corp. “And if you don’t have a laptop or a computer at home, this is a convenient way to use our services.”
Much of San Francisco-based Xoom’s remittance business involves workers in the U.S. electronically sending funds to other countries. It has launched a mobile application that enables users to send funds globally from their mobile devices to bank accounts in 30 countries, or recipients may receive sent funds as cash.
Consumers may access the new mobile app, developed in partnership with Usablenet Inc., at m.xoom.com using any Web-enabled mobile device. It offers the same features of Xoom’s regular website, such as the ability to send funds, check the status of a transaction and see current exchange rates.
Xoom enables banks, credit unions, retailers and funds-transfer operators to build or expand their funds-transfer businesses without the complex logistical, technological and legal hurdles that accompany the operation of remittance businesses. It accomplishes this by establishing disbursement networks overseas, using Web and mobile technology, and by taking steps to ensure its operations comply with the varied banking and anti-money-laundering rules and regulations of different nations.
The firm’s bank participants in Canada, for example, include HSBC, CIBC and Citigroup. Its partners in Brazil include Banco Itau, Banamex in Mexico, and BDO, BPI and PNB in the Philippines. Xoom launched this year and is backed by Sequoia Capital, New Enterprise Associates and Fidelity Ventures.
“Our customers don’t have to go to a physical location through our existing online service, and we’re extending that model to the mobile platform,” says King.
Xoom joins m-Via in launching new mobile finance services for remittance (see story).
The mobile channel can open access to financial services to a broader set of users and help Xoom’s partner banks grow their services among underbanked populations. Services such as Xoom and m-Via also serve as an alternative to Western Union, which has been expanding its own mobile capabilities (see story).
“It’s part of a natural trend to take these services to the mobile channel,” says Zil Bareisis, a senior analyst for Celent, noting Western Union recently entered into a partnership with M-Pesa, the Kenyan mobile money network (see story).
That partnership enables customers in the U.S., United Kingdom and other countries to transfer funds to a Safaricom/M-Pesa user’s account, and the receivers will get an SMS message from M-Pesa notifying them that that the funds are available in their account.
Usablenet, whose clients include American Airlines, Ambank and Expedia, creates mobile versions of websites optimized for iPhone, Android, Nokia, Samsung and other handsets. It gauges the screen size, ability and format of a specific mobile device and maps the Web content to those parameters.
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