This June saw Unistream Germany (Unistream GmbH) register with FRG regulatory authorities, Deutsche Bank, and BaFin, and duly issued with a money transmission license. This development is, without doubt, a major event for Germany's money transfer market, as well as for Western Europe's remittance corridor in general.
Unistream GmbH is part of the international Unistream Group, which incorporates Moscow-based Unistream Bank, Unistream Cyprus Ltd, Unistream UK Ltd, and the recently registered Unistream Greece S.A.
United by a common philosophy and strategy, as well as by integrated financial and operating activities, the Group continues to forge ahead with developing and rolling out its international money transfer system under the Unistream brand.
With more than 75,000 POS worldwide, Unistream is today a formidable international player that has succeeded in capturing over 1% of the global money transfer market.
Chalking up $4.91 bn in turnover in 2008, the Unistream system currently services more than 5 mn customers annually. Over 300 financial institutions in the CIS, Asia, Western and Eastern Europe, North, Central, and South America combine to create a well ramified partner network. The Unistream logo is now to be seen throughout six continents in banks, the POS of other money transfer systems, and post offices.
Meantime, Unistream's management remains committed to an ambitious strategy that aims to turn the operator into a leading player on the global money transmission market.
"The launch of Unistream Germany heralds the start of a major drive to roll out international Unistream-brand POS throughout Western Europe," says George Piskov, member of the company's Board of Directors, and one of the founders of the Unistream system.
"The fact that we kicked off operations in two European countries in
2009 - a tough year for the global economy, to say the least - underscores just how much Unistream's has achieved and just how far it's come in the relatively short time since its inception," notes Unistream Board Chairman Gagik Zakaryan.
"Germany signals a new stage in the company's history," Zakaryan continues. "The system has been given the green light to carve deep inroads into this market, which, needless to say, marks an important breakthrough in Unistream's expansion and evolution".
"Unistream's German debut follows on the heels of a huge amount of work analyzing the country's market and its significance for the Western European segment, as well as a whole range of preliminary operations, that, taken together, paved the way toward obtaining a license in this particular EU member state," adds Unistream President, Suren Ayriyan.
As one of Europe's workforce and economic migration hubs, Germany is a highly appealing segment for the money transfer market.
"Today more than three million of the country's residents are economic migrants from the CIS, which, given the decidedly high standard of living in Germany, is inevitably a dynamic growth driver for the money transfer market. Analysts at Unistream estimate that Germany's money transfer market will be annually worth more than $12 bn even in the immediate post-crisis period, which is absolutely colossal, bearing in mind that the Russia-CIS corridor added up to a total $15 bn in 2008,"
Ayriyan says, also noting that Unistream analysts put the Germany-CIS corridor's value at around $4 bn, going forward.
Anchoring its operations in Hamburg, Unistream Germany now plans to extend its network throughout the country's major industrial centers, including Berlin, Dusseldorf, and Munich, where it is already aiming to carve itself a hefty slice of the market.
The start-up of Unistream Germany marks a new stage of a cogent strategy to harness the potentially highly lucrative Germany-CIS corridor, as well as representing an important step in the ongoing rollout of all segments of the company's Germany-targeted network.
Unistream's management view the granting of a license as yet further testimony to the high quality of the company's services, along with its compliance with the very highest international standards in money remittance.
Established in 2001, Unistream's solid upward trajectory began with an aggressive expansion into the Russian and CIS markets, offering customers what was at the time a unique combination of high-quality yet affordable services. From the outset, the system was underpinned by a commitment to attracting new clients by building a customer-focused money-transfer market.
Thanks to a flexible rates policy, close partnership with banks, the rapid rollout of in-house networks in Russia and outside the CIS, as well as the phased introduction of new products, it was only a matter of time before Unistream emerged among the leaders in this important corridor.
Systematically transforming itself into a major player, Unistream went from strength to strength, driving up its operating and financial indicators.
With a turnover of $760 mn in 2005, the company succeeded in ramping up total transactions to $1.85 bn in 2006, improving this to $3.7 bn in 2007. At the same time, the number of customers climbed dramatically year-on-year, soaring from 870,000 in 2005 to 3.7 mn in 2007.
Meanwhile, Unistream continues to power ahead with major international projects, forging increasing and stronger links with high-profile financial institutions worldwide, honing optimal common and regional marketing policies, and utilizing the very latest in IT systems.
Also, Unistream's Russian in-house network adds up to more than 40% of the system's total turnover. Notable milestones in the company's global drive included the rollout of in-house networks in the United Kingdom and Cyprus, where turnover continues to grow apace.
This year witnessed another important event, namely the beginning of in-house network expansion in Greece by a new addition to the Group, Unistream Greece.
In the CIS corridor, where the system commenced operations, Unistream commands around 30% of the market. Specifically, based on data released by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, its share of the Russia-CIS segment equaled almost 27% as of year-end 2008.
FY08 results show the company cementing leadership positions in the core areas of this segment, controlling 57% of the market in Armenia, 45% in Kyrgyzstan, 41% in Moldavia, 25% in Tajikistan, and 22% in Uzbekistan.
Unistream's popularity is attributable not only to the high quality of its service and its ramified network, but also to the broad product mix that it offers clients. Also, it is a company that remains resolute in its determination to pursue ambitious projects, enabling it not just to continue rolling out its core segment (money transfers), but also other services, such as mobile and telephone payment schemes, loan payments, bank account deposits, payment for public utilities, and numerous others. All in all, today Unistream's product range has been expanded to include some 20 service options.
The Unistream system seeks to move with the times, and is instrumental in projects geared toward integrating money transmission into a single cluster of cutting-edge information and Internet technologies.
Unistream's focus on sustaining a presence in all international corridors has enabled it to concentrate on developing a number of new interesting projects.
Last but not least, it is also worth mentioning that Unistream was the first system to draw investments into the money transfer segment in the CIS. In 2006, for example, the company succeeded in divesting a 26% stake in Unistream Bank to Aurora Russia Limited for $20 mln.