Money: Sending Money Home

by Dale Sproule

Published March 2005. Some information in this article is outdated.

Deepa, a 57 year old woman, has lived in Karaikal on India 's southern coast her whole life. Her husband Baladevi was a fisherman who was swept away in the Tsunami on December 26, 2004. As well, her husband's boat was lost and her house was destroyed.

Her son Murugesh came to Canada a little more than one year ago and lives in Mississauga. When he heard of the disaster, he wanted nothing more than to go back to India, but he had just started working at a new job and did not have the money or the chance to go. He telephoned his brother, Senthil, who lives just down the coast from his parents. He took their mother into his own house which was also damaged by the flooding.

"How can I help?" asked Murugesh.

"We need everything! Please send us money," replied his brother.

On January 12th, Murugesh went to a local A&P store transferred $600 to the Western Union office a few kilometres from his brother's house in Pondicherry. He was very happy to discover that the fees to do this had been lowered as part of Western Union 's reduced rate on money transfers to the areas struck by the Tsunami. Senthil picked up the money first thing the next morning and used it to feed his family and start repairing his house.

Deepa and her family were made up (they are not real) to tell the story, but what they went through is something that was truly experienced by thousands of Canadian families who emigrated here from the areas affected by the tsunami. Everyone wanted to help as much and as fast as they could.

Unless you are the last person in your family to come to Canada, some of your family still lives in your country of origin: your wife or husband, children, parents, brothers, sisters. You help your family if you can, whether they have suffered from a disaster or not.

If you came to Canada as a refugee, chances are that those people need your help very much - either to survive at home or to someday join you in Canada. The same is true if you came to Canada from a country where the economy is unstable, where wages are low and work is hard to find.

In his recent speech to the Economic Club of Toronto, William Thomas, Western Union 's President for the Americas, referred to a study by The World Bank showing that ".money sent by migrants back to their country of origin is the second largest source of external funding for developing countries. International money transfer is a global market valued at $150 billion that is growing at an annual rate of about five per cent.

"When someone sends money from Brampton to Bangalore, from Calgary to Kuala Lumpur, or from London to Lahore," said Thomas, "it's known as a 'remittance'. Last year alone, we [ Western Union ] handled 215 million remittances and bill payments and another nearly 900 million prepaid transactions."

In 2004, Western Union completed more than one billion transactions and their revenues grew 15 per cent to $3.7 billion. "In terms of sheer numbers," said Thomas, " Western Union has more than 200,000 agent locations, or four times as many locations as McDonald's, Starbucks and Wal-Mart combined."

Transferring money to any of the more than 195 countries and territories Western Union serves is a simple process. The company has over 3,000 locations in Canada, including Dominion Stores, Money Mart, A&P, Cash Money, Safeway Stores, the Cash Store and thousands of independent retail outlets across the country. All you have to do is drop in to one of those locations, and show proper identification to the agent (driver's license, Permanent resident card, passport etc). After you have filled out one simple form, the agent will immediately process the transaction and the money will be available at the destination location within minutes (in many countries around the world Western Union is commonly found in banks and post offices). Receiving this money is just as easy as sending it. Receivers simply go to a Western Union agent location, fill out a simple form, present their ID and they receive the money as cash or cheque.

Western Union also caters to customers on the World Wide Web. With a Canada-based credit card, www.westernunion.com customers can send and track online transactions to ensure their money is received on time.

Western Union may be the largest company to offer money transfers from Canada, but there are many others. Trusting your money to a remittance company you've never heard of can be risky. Even if they are honest and offer good rates, they may not be large enough to offer good service.

Most banks also offer money transfers.

At the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), remittances are made primarily through wire payments. This is primarily a service for RBC customers. You must show up in person to send a wire payment. If you're not an established client you must present satisfactory ID and references. Most RBC money transfers are done through correspondent banks in the countries where the wire payment is being sent. This can be complicated if the receiver of the money doesn't have an account at one of RBC 's correspondent banks, although there is a process called "pay upon application" where the receiver can go to their local branch of a correspondent bank and present ID to convince the bank that they are entitled to the funds. RBC sends remittances to almost every country in the world, but there are no set fees - the fees are different every time, depending on the individual transaction (where you are sending it to). Corporations are more likely to use the RBC money transfer than individuals.

ICICI Bank is the second largest bank in India and is rapidly expanding into Canada. ICICI currently has 3 branches in the GTA with a fourth opening in April.

At ICICI Bank, you do not need an account to send a remittance to any of the countries they serve. Although their first branch in Canada opened just over one year ago, ICICI has expanded quickly. That trend will continue over the next few weeks and months, as they start offering money transfers not only to India and Sri Lanka, but also to the Philippines, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

You do not need to have an account at ICICI in order to send a money transfer, but if you are a client, you will pay a lower fee. Service charges currently range from $10 for customers to $25 for non-customers. They do not accept personal cheques, but will accept bankers cheques (certified cheques or bank drafts) in any amount. They also accept cash up to $3,000. Within one day, the transfer will be deposited directly into the recipient's account at any of ICICI's 470 branches and extension counters, as well as most of the major banks in India and at the Hatton National Bank, the largest private commercial bank in Sri Lanka. If you fill out the form provided when you open an account at ICICI, you can fax your money transfer instructions to the bank, without needing to visit the bank in person.

You can also send money through their website MoneytoIndia.com. This involves registering online to set up the beneficiary, then printing out the form and taking it to your existing bank in Canada.

The number of international banks in Canada will continue to grow, as will the flow of cash between here and their countries of origin.

As Western Union 's William Thomas pointed out, "Based on numbers from the last national census, nearly five and a half million global migrants have settled in Canada, and now make up nearly one-fifth of Canada 's population. Here in Toronto, the proportion of immigrants is far greater - more than 40 per cent of the city's population consists of people who were born in another country."

The bottom line is that the way Canada does business is changing.

As Thomas says, "I am passionate about the positive and profound opportunities global migration presents to Canadian businesses with the vision to adapt to new marketplace realities. This market is no longer static, people are no longer homogeneous and cultures are intertwined in a way we can't afford to ignore.

"At Western Union, we have addressed this phenomenon by building an effective network of ethnic agents located specifically in ethnic communities across Canada."

North American companies like Western Union are constantly changing and adapting to serve you better. International institutions like ICICI Bank are poised to make the most of Canada 's changing ethnic landscape. With different companies and banks eager to serve you, the marketplace will continue to improve as they compete for your business. For you, that means faster, most convenient service from representatives who are familiar with the way you like to do business.

CNM