World Council Partners with Boom Financial to Reach Unbanked Immigrants in U.S., Haiti

By Saul Wolf

The Boom team recruits passers-by to make their first transaction and become new credit union members outside a traditional remittance agent in Miami.

Three years ago, I asked myself: What is the future of the 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 that mobile is an answer. 

In 2012, World Council partnered with Boom Financial, a socially responsible high-tech startup, to offer an international mobile remittance solution, the first of its kind. Since launching in October 2013 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 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 prepaid VISA cards, remote check capture and direct deposit. It also has relationships with large cash-based payment networks in the U.S., which are all accessible via mobile and/or plastic.

In Haiti where a card 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 where immigrants live and work. In fact, 100 percent of Boom’s U.S. customers — all of whom become credit union members upon receiving funds — are acquired outside the branch using Boom’s retail and mobile vans.  

Boom Financial employees test out the cash-deposit system on the company’s high-tech van. Photos courtesy of Boom Financial.

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 loyalty 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 it manages. 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 location.

These technology and business model differences mean Boom offers a less-expensive way for credit unions to be involved in mobile. Boom also allows credit unions to innovate in a uniquely cooperative way that banks likely cannot follow, by working together as networked financial institutions for the common good. 

Saul Wolf is the remittances manager for the World Council of Credit Unions, which has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. For more information, contact Wolf at swolf@woccu.org or visit WOCCU’s website at www.woccu.org.

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

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