He is an ‘ on the toes ‘ thinker and the toast of one of the biggest money transfer brands in the world: UAE Exchange. Rising from the ranks to the position of CEO. BrandKnew caught up with Promoth Manghat in a freewheeling chat and below are the excerpts:
BrandKnew (BK). Could you please tell us a bit about yourselves? How long have you been with the UAE Exchange Group? And how has the journey been?
I hail from a remote village in the state of Kerala in India. A Chartered Accountant, I was with GE before joining UAE Exchange in 2001 in India as Accounts Manager. In that role I defined the processes and streamlined the finance function. Dr. B.R.Shetty, Founder and Chairman of UAE Exchange, required me to take up similar responsibilities in the Global Head Quarters in the UAE. Thus I shifted to Abu Dhabi in 2003 as Head of Finance. 2005, after a restructuring, I was given the responsibility of Operations as its Vice President. In 2008 I was elevated as Vice President – Global Operations. We aggressively entered more markets globally and consolidated our business, enhancing agility to take faster decisions. In 2014 I was elevated to the role of Dy. CEO. We acquired Travelex, our biggest acquisition till date in 2015. Post which I was chosen the CEO of UAE Exchange Group. The journey so far has been exciting, challenging and eventful. A lot has been unlearned and re-learned in the process, rewarding my appetite to make a difference.
BK. If you were to give a one line description of the UAE Exchange business, what would that be?
UAE Exchange as a business is entrepreneurially dynamic, adaptive, progressive and innovative, touching the lives of millions positively and earning the trust of customers and their families back home.
BK. The general perception is that UAE Exchange is only in the Money Transfer business while Foreign Exchange and Wealth Management form vitally important ingredients of the overall pie. How do you address that perception?
Remittance is a major ingredient of the business at UAE Exchange. But expatriates do count on us for various other requirements like foreign exchange, wealth management, prepaid card, payroll management, various bill payments etc. They look at UAE Exchange as a one-stop-shop for all their financial requirements and we partner with various service providers strategically to stand up to our customer expectations.
BK. Money Transfer is an extremely commoditised business, how does UAE Exchange differentiate itself from the rest of the pack?
At UAE Exchange, the focus is more on ‘how we do’ rather than ‘what we do’. For us customer is at the
centre of every initiative. How we enhance customers’ experience is what we aim at. We think ahead of time and invest in technology, processes and people. When equipped with the best, our team will be able to deliver beyond customer expectations. Very early in our journey we realised the importance of technology in our growth. So, we maintained our lead in adopting the latest technology, thus setting trends and keeping ourselves ahead of competition. We equip our people with frequent training and keep them abreast with the latest in processes, customer care and more. So whenever customers walk in, we ensure that we take the best means to enhance their experience with us every time.
BK. What was the motivation behind acquiring the Travelex brand?
We, as a group, are constantly looking for opportunities to expand, both geographically and category-wise. Acquisition of Travelex, the global foreign exchange specialist, in 2015 is one such endeavour. With this acquisition we become the largest group to offer currency exchange and money transfer services, bringing the two category leaders under a single umbrella.
BK. With the acquisition of the Travelex brand, would you now be the biggest global player in this vertical. How has things changed with this acquisition?
With the acquisition of Travelex, we could bring the two category leaders under a single umbrella. Today our presence has grown to 43 countries with a significant share in remittance and currency exchange business. Our group has emerged as the second largest remittance player with around 100 million transactions. Meanwhile the process for integrating both the businesses for economies of scale is underway and is progressing at an encouraging pace.
BK. Brands like Go Cash under the portfolio- how has the market responded to it?
When gocash prepaid card was launched in 2012, it was first of its kind in the market. Initial response for this multi-currency prepaid card was slow but eventually people realised the convenience it brings. In a single card customers get to load up to six currencies from a bouquet of 20. Now it is used for online payment, travel expenses, educational expenses in other countries etc. gocash is a fast-moving product today. It is encouraging to see our patience succeeding well and customers expressing satisfaction.
BK. Which is UAE Exchange’s biggest market and what are the new growth markets that the brand is driving?
Middle East, especially the Gulf, Asia and North America are some of the promising zones for remittances. On the other end countries like India, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc., are some of the top remittance receiving destinations, which trigger business. Today, we have a strong presence in 31 countries with close to 800 direct offices, serving over 15 million customers worldwide, handling around 6.5% of total global remittance volume. We handle 10% of the total remittance flow to India, the largest receiver of remittances according to the World Bank. Meanwhile our global market share in foreign exchange business is around 7.1%. Africa, as a region, is quite unexplored and hence has huge potential for business. We have a good presence in the region. We want to strengthen our presence and enhance our operations in this region. All our efforts are towards achieving that goal.
BK. With Internet of Things (IOT) and the rapid advancement of Mobile Technology, how do you see the business landscape changing for brands like UAE Exchange and businesses in your vertical in general?
Digital technology is disrupting business as we know it. New fintech start-ups are also adding to the dynamic change in the business landscape. Meanwhile regulators, across geographies, are putting in place the policies and procedures towards achieving a healthy digital economy. For instance, Central Bank of the UAE recently launched the regulatory framework for digital payments. In such a scenario it is advisable for veterans like UAE Exchange to not get bogged down by their legacies. Instead remain agile and flexible enough to take quick decisions and structural changes as required. We have been doing the same. Market offers opportunities to everyone. But collaboration is a better alternative to competition. Increasingly fintech start-ups are collaborating with us to bring together their skills and our experience, achieving the best for the customers.
BK. What do you see the Road Ahead for the UAE Exchange brand in the ever changing, technology driven landscape? And what specifically do your role as in that scheme of things?
As mentioned digital is the future. Every aspect of life is going to go the digital way and business is no different. As a group, we have our own ambitious plans for complete digitalisation. We are aggressively investing in technology and people to achieve our vision in the digital space. As the CEO of the group,
I will be responsible for defining the path ahead in such a dynamic environment and ensure that the entire group, across geographies, align to the overall strategy. I will be leading the cultural change within the system and how we project ourselves to the external world including partners, customers and regulators.
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