MoneyGram's COO explains how a four-year digital transformation helped fuel triple-digit growth during the pandemic

  • MoneyGram's bread-and-butter money transfer services, offered through hundreds of thousands of agent locations globally, was largely shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • But it's seen a massive boost in its new digital products, which it's been building over the last four years.
  • "That part of our business has exploded," Kamila Chytil, COO of MoneyGram said on Monday during Business Insider's Global Trends Festival. 
  • MoneyGram's stock is up roughly 290% since the beginning of April.
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MoneyGram has long been known for its cross-border payments and global network of hundreds of thousands of kiosks and storefronts. Its physical footprint globally includes over 380,000 agent locations, more than McDonald's, Starbucks, and Subway combined. 

And that bread-and-butter business, largely reliant on in-person transactions, was rocked by the coronavirus pandemic. But MoneyGram has continued to see transaction growth, largely driven by its new digital products.

Over the last several months, MoneyGram's years-long digitization effort proved a crucial pivot. Beyond in-person transfers, MoneyGram has been investing in digital-first products that enable consumers to use its service anywhere via its app and website. 

"When the pandemic struck, our impact was very sharp and very significant and very sudden. Thinking back to March, we saw a very large decline in our walk-in business," Kamila Chytil, COO of MoneyGram said on Monday during Business Insider's Global Trends Festival. 

"On the absolute opposite end of that pendulum was our digital business," she added.

Read more: We spoke with MoneyGram execs about the company's push into digital P2P payments and how it's playing catch-up with Venmo

As is common for COOs, Chytil oversees operations, product strategy, information technology, and cybersecurity. But, unlike many COOs, Chytil is also responsible for a revenue stream; in this case, she heads up all things digital. 

In September, MoneyGram saw digital cross-border transactions grow 161% year-over-year, marking its ninth consecutive month of triple-digit growth. MoneyGram's stock is up roughly 290% since the beginning of April.

"MoneyGram, four years ago, set out to transform and develop a direct-to-consumer business where, through digital properties, primarily our app, as well as websites in about 81 countries, we offer our money transfer services to consumers directly," Chytil said. "That part of our business has exploded."

Digital transformation requires corporate change, too

As MoneyGram has invested in new, digital products, that's meant some changes internally, too. 

"You cannot transform the company without transforming its culture," Chytil said. 

"One of the first things that I did when we embarked on this digital transformation was to ensure that we were sticking to our principles of experimentation, of having outside perspectives, and abandoning legacy ways," she added. "Sometimes that has to be done by edict."

Abandoning legacy tech stacks — often cited as a massive barrier for companies looking to push digital — was key to MoneyGram's digital strategy.

"We won't live with constraints that are compromising the customer experience, just because we have a platform that's incapable of doing something," Chytil said. 

Building new tech from scratch can be a massive undertaking that requires buy-in from your existing workforce. Chytil said it was important to keep lines of communication open with staff about progress. Early successes related to digital were celebrated, she added.

Be it through MoneyGram's innovation lab that encourages employees to submit ideas or highlighting quick wins like automating a manual reporting function, Chytil has worked to ensure employees embrace the new digital roadmap. 

"Small, early wins in our digital transformation convinced the employee base that we're not just ripping things apart," Chytil said. "That we are going to progress, that we're going to shift slowly, but that our mindsets will have to change. We're going to have to embrace new things, new solutions that may be scary, and that people may have to learn, but we will help them along the way."

MoneyGram invested in Google University and AWS certifications for developers, upskilling existing employees so they would be able to grow alongside the company's new strategies.

"If you offer the actual roadmaps and the paths to upskilling, people generally are extremely positive about that," Chytil said.

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