Why a California License Is WorldRemit’s Biggest Prize

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Obtaining money transmitter licenses in every state has been a lengthy process for WorldRemit, but one that paid off big this month when the company became regulated in California.

The Denver-based money transfer network that enables its app users to send money globally to other bank accounts or mobile money wallets, views California as its biggest catch to date.

"California is particularly important for us because we think it is going to be one of our biggest markets, as California alone will be bigger than the entire U.K. for us," said Ismail Ahmed, CEO and founder of WorldRemit.

California has 10 million foreign-born residents, compared to about 6 million in the U.K. and another 6 million in France, Ahmed said. "The state has a large number of migrants sending to our top receive markets in the Phillipines, African corridor, Vietnam and Latin America," Ahmed added.

WorldRemit capped off an aggressive market expansion last year by adding the capability for its app users to send funds to any bank account in Vietnam.

The addition of California, with a large Vietnamese population, came a couple of weeks after WorldRemit added Illinois, another large market because of Chicago.

WorldRemit now offers its service in 45 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Of the remaining states, WorldRemit has been working most recently to obtain licenses in New York and Ohio, Ahmed said.

Because of its distribution network in which users send money to the bank accounts or mobile phones of family or friends abroad, WorldRemit finds itself in the middle of the industry conversation about how remittance costs could be less expensive in the future.

WorldRemit senders draw money from their bank accounts, debit cards or credit cards. A third of WordRemit money transfers go directly to mobile phone accounts in countries in which a financial network operates in which mobile money wallets operate within the phone system, such as M-Pesa in Kenya.

WorldRemit uses Jumio's authentication technology as an extra layer of security, deploying a process in which the customer takes a picture of her passport or driver's license, which Jumio checks for signs of fraud.

"For many of our migrants, having WorldRemit marks the first time they will access or send money instantly to mobile money services," Ahmed said. "In many markets, we are the only player in which customers can send money in this way."

In that regard, Ahmed views WorldRemit as a unique money transfer service, one that isn't obsessed with positioning itself as a competitor against Western Union or MoneyGram.

"For mobile money, we are a global leader," he added. "The percentage of transfers we send to mobile money wallets is far bigger than other services."

But other remittance companies are not standing still as payments technology continues to provide opportunities for expanded services.

MoneyGram last week expanded its Plus program into the U.K. market with an option for users to obtain a plastic card that streamlines the money transfer process for regular users, while also offering some rewards or perks.While it was rumored a year ago that Western Union was looking to acquire MoneyGram as a way for both companies to thwart growing competition, that development never materialized.

Last month, Western Union became part of a European Union antitrust inquiry regarding allegations that it colluded with banks to try to drive out rivals in the money-transfer market.In the meantime, the company has worked to expand its market, especially through the WU.com online transactions services, launching the Websites in Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia late last year. 

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