Aug 11, 2021 - Economy & Business

One-on-one with MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes

Image of MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes.

Alex Holmes; Photo: MoneyGram

The pandemic’s acceleration of all things digital could not be more clear to MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes.

Driving the news: Holmes oversees a global money transfer business that operates in 200 countries. The company's digital transactions skyrocketed 44% year over year in Q2 2021, on top of what it described as "astounding" 106% digital transaction growth in Q2 2020.

Of note: Even older folks are adapting to digital more quickly than Holmes expected.

What he’s saying: "The pandemic has definitely unlocked and really pushed the thinking on innovation, and it's really forcing this permanent shift around consumer behavior. Whereas before, I think people were kind of moving in and out [of using digital services], now I think they're really shifting forward," Holmes says.

  • "Nothing ever reverts back to the mean, it just continues to progress forward. [Pandemic] shifts are becoming permanent," he adds.
  • Consumers didn’t want to touch germ-ridden cash, demanded convenient, simpler noncash solutions, and companies complied.

Between the lines: Part of digital expansion means getting comfortable with cryptocurrency, and all the regulatory compliance that crypto services entail. Holmes says it’s as simple — or as complicated — as applying the same identity, data collection and anti-money laundering standards that MoneyGram already employs for transactions in other currencies.

Details: MoneyGram has partnered with Coinme to allow customers to load cash into, or out of, bitcoin wallets using MoneyGram's mobile payments platform.

  • "We try not to hold crypto on our balance sheet, we try not to be long investors in crypto," Holmes says.

State of play: "We've been so proactive with regulators. You have to stay in front of regulation, you have to participate in regulation, you have to comply with regulation."

  • "What's been fascinating is that we've had more trouble working with some of our partners in the retail space, around their willingness to participate in [crypto-related services] than we've seen pushback from banks" or regulators, he adds.
  • "So many storefronts ... don’t want any part of it, because of the perceived regulation challenge," he says.

The bottom line: "Pushing the envelope around how money moves across borders, and how can we use cryptocurrency and blockchain to accelerate that and make it cheaper, faster, better ... is really exciting."

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