MoneyGram takes aim at growth in an electronic age

  • Article by: HANAH CHO , Dallas Morning News
  • Updated: December 15, 2012 - 8:55 PM

The company, which pulled its headquarters out of St. Louis Park last year, has been looking for new business opportunities.

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Moneygram's St. Louis Park headquarters

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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In Italy and the United Arab Emirates, MoneyGram consumers use smartphones to transfer money to more than 190 countries.

In Saudi Arabia, customers send cash using an ATM. At some grocery stores in the United States, shoppers use a touch-screen kiosk to send money domestically and abroad.

As more of the world becomes tied to mobile phones, tablets and computers, MoneyGram International Inc. is looking to expand the ways customers send and receive money. The money transfer company is using technology and other innovations to position itself for growth in the electronic age.

"We want to make the arena we play in bigger by virtue of technology and product offerings," Pamela Patsley, MoneyGram chairman and chief executive, said recently at the company's Dallas headquarters. "That's clearly mobile. It's clearly kiosks. It's online channels. I think we've done a good job in being efficient and opportunistic about tackling those new opportunities."

MoneyGram was based in St. Louis Park until last year, and it still employs about 700 people and has dozens of agent locations in Minnesota.

In the past year, the company has inked deals for several products and services that marry brick-and-mortar operations with online capabilities.

A deal with PayPal will allow consumers to load and withdraw money from online payment service accounts at a MoneyGram storefront. The service will be piloted at U.S. locations in early 2013.

A partnership with Gemalto, an Amsterdam digital security company, will allow customers to transfer money internationally from mobile devices and receive money on mobile wallets.

The company is expanding online money transfer to allow customers in the United Kingdom to send money using credit or debit cards and bank accounts.

By the end of the year, MoneyGram expects to roll out a mobile version of its website for U.S. customers.

Such efforts appear to be showing results. In the past year, revenue from online, mobile and kiosk transactions has increased by double digits.

In the June-to-September quarter, revenue from those alternative channels grew 40 percent from a year ago. Overall, these transactions represented 5 percent of $291 million in money transfer revenue in the third quarter. Revenue last year grew about 7 percent to $1.25 billion; more than 80 percent came from its core global transfer business.

Brett Horn, an analyst at Morningstar, sees MoneyGram's push into electronic channels as twofold. For one thing, the company wants to be ready as more customers start using electronic money-transfers. But given that traditional cash-to-cash transfers still make up the bulk of MoneyGram's business, Horn expects the shift to happen slowly.

At the same time, electronic options are attracting new customers outside the company's core customer base.

While MoneyGram has not disclosed what types of customers are using electronic and mobile services, Western Union has indicated 80 percent of similar users are new customers, Horn said.

MoneyGram must remain vigilant about consumer protection and anti-fraud measures.

Under a settlement with federal prosecutors last month, MoneyGram agreed to pay $100 million to compensate victims of money transfer schemes by some of its agents.

Authorities said company officials knew some agents were engaged in fraud but did not fire them.

With that settlement, Patsley believes MoneyGram has turned the corner in resolving its major legacy issues since she joined the company as chairman in early 2009 and became chief executive later that year.

Since then, she has worked to overhaul MoneyGram's culture to one that is "much more accountable and responsible."

"The underpinning of everything else was changing the culture," she said. "From there, that permeates not only with how we deal with each other but externally with agents and consumers, law enforcement, shareholders and everyone else."

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