The remittance market in the UAE is fiercely competitive with foreign workers sending home Dh10 billion (US$2.72bn) each month. Rashed Al Ansari, the general manager of Al Ansari Exchange, explains how the UAE's largest network exchange aims to stay ahead of its competitors after expanding to more than 100 branches.
What is next for the business?
We will continue our expansion plans within the UAE. Abu Dhabi will see most of the new locations due to the rapid expansions within the capital. We are pumping Dh500 million over the course of the coming three years to increase the company's capital, expand our footprint, revamp our IT infrastructure and systems and introduce new products and services. We [also] have an active presence in Kuwait, Sudan and parts of the Indian subcontinent and we will work on international expansion plans when the opportunities arise.
You are one of the main players in the money transfer industry in the Emirates, but you have tough competition. How do you set yourself apart?
We do that through consistency in service quality and innovation. After the successful introduction of the mobile branch that caters to the wage protection system, we started actually studying similar projects that harness technology in order to facilitate the use of our services, such as the provision of ATM machines to dispense salaries, foreign currency booking services, electronic and mobile remittances and currency conversion through ATMs.
Is the competition forcing you to offer more products and services. If so, what?
We are in the process of updating our online money transfer service, which was launched five years ago, and assessing the possibility of money transfers via mobile phones. Moreover, we introduced several utility payment services such as credit cards, phone and water and electricity payments in addition to airline tickets payments, which will be announced later this year - all with the aim to provide comprehensive services under one roof.
Companies from the telecommunications industry are also interested in entering the remittance industry. How will that change the market and your place in it?
The more parties that enter the remittance equation the more it will add to the total cost of the product. Having the telecoms providers, the outlets that would sell electronic currencies to enable a mobile remittance, in addition to the banking and financial systems that clear the transactions, will end up putting pressures on the cost of each transaction. Because of these constraints, we expect the emergence of real competition only after three years.
What are you doing to plan for their entrance into the market?
Customers, in general, prefer the conventional methods of dealing especially when it comes to financial services. Despite that, we are seriously considering this [mobile-based] technology for the future to ensure we play a strategic part in this technology and will introduce it to our customers when we are satisfied with its reliability and economic feasibility.