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In the US, Australia, Finland, Italy, and Belgium, Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in May.
But in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, the day always falls on May 10. Some countries celebrate it in concert with International Women’s Day on March 8, and others, like Haiti and the Dominican Republic, recognize moms on the last Sunday of May . . . unless that day is Pentecost. Then, it becomes the first Sunday of June.
While all that might sound complicated, Liz Alicea-Velez has it down. After three years at MoneyGram International, she has all the rules for Mother’s Day and other significant global celebrations memorized. It’s an important part of her job as head of the Americas region.
Alicea-Velez is a bilingual veteran sales and marketing executive with nearly thirty years of experience building high-performing teams and departments for well-known companies in the United States, the Caribbean, and South and Central America. In these roles, she has driven growth and profitability strategies by applying her deep knowledge of consumer financial services and ethnic marketing.
Many factors have led to her success, but Alicea-Velez says her international experience, cultural sensitivity, and adaptability have helped her stay close to the consumer. Her ability to memorize the calendar has helped too. People come to MoneyGram to send cross-border payments and money transfers to companies, friends, and family members. “Consumers send money for different reasons at different times. We have to understand their holidays, preferences, needs, and desires in order to market to them and serve them in the best and most effective way possible,” she explains.
Although she originally studied sales, a desire to focus on marketing took Alicea-Velez to Harvard Business School. The Bronx native with Puerto-Rican heritage developed a career plan immediately after graduation.
“I knew Hispanic marketing would soon flourish, and I wanted to find opportunities where I could combine my Spanish, my business training, my marketing studies, and my background in sales,” she says. Alicea-Velez started her career leading the expansion of a banking network in Central America and the Caribbean and soon moved to First Data Corporation, where she was responsible for a turnaround in Mexico and Brazil and other activities in forty-two countries.
Alicea-Velez spent many years as an internal leader and external consultant helping companies and clients in various industries understand and reach the Hispanic consumer. In 2019, she joined MoneyGram to lead efforts in their Americas region.
It was the start of an important era at the Texas-based company. With $900 million in revenue and 2,200 employees, MoneyGram was the second-largest money transfer company in the world. As it prepared to enter its fifth decade, leaders eyed two important goals—continued growth and a digital transformation. Hispanic consumers would be instrumental to both.
Today, MoneyGram reaches about forty-seven million customers. Alicea-Velez negotiates sales contracts with small partner stores and big-box retailers. She also makes key decisions to continue to enhance the quality of service that the company brings to customers through retail and digital platforms.
One company that works closely with MoneyGram is Massy Remittance Services (a subsidiary of holding/management company Massy Group). “Liz Alicea-Velez is a trailblazer, a visionary, and a first-class strategist,” says Neela Marquez, CEO of Massy Finance Remittances. “She combines a no-holds-barred leadership style with a unique insight into the market that allows her to evolve their businesses in a rapidly changing environment.”
As MoneyGram pushes its digital transformation forward, understanding the consumer is more critical than ever before. Consumers in the UK, US, Canada, or elsewhere might be sending money for school supplies to their family in Jamaica or getting funds to a loved one in Mexico. Transactions can start digital and go to a bank or be received in cash.
“There are countless options and many intersections with money transfer,” Alicea-Velez says. “Our job is to make sure we have the right products and services that let the consumer send or receive money on their terms.”
A diverse team helps her understand and respond to these regional nuances. Alicea-Velez leads a group made up of people born in Mexico, Africa, Colombia, Peru, and the United States. Together, they stay close to shifting preferences in the region.
For Alicea-Velez, it’s meaningful work, and she is passionate about nurturing and promoting young talent. She not only works with organizations like the Commonwealth Institute that help young women find the next steps for their careers but also helps college applicants find and apply for scholarships. Recently, Alicea-Velez returned to her alma mater, Adelphi University, to raise money for new students.
“I got a four-year scholarship and want to help others get their start. I was a poor kid from the Bronx who needed a chance, and they gave me that chance,” she says.
At MoneyGram International, Alicea-Velez continues to use her expertise to help leaders pursue their goals. In early 2022, the company announced that it had reached an agreement to be acquired by Madison Dearborn Partners. The Chicago-based private equity firm will complete a $1.8 billion all-cash transaction.
The transaction is the result of the hard work Alicea-Velez and her colleagues throughout the organization have done to serve international customers, expand digital capabilities, scale the company, and position it for success. Their innovative platform is now ready for all users in the Americas and beyond.
FACTS AND FIGURES
- MoneyGram started in 1980.
- The company resulted from the merger of Travelers Express and Integrated Payment Systems.
- It took the name MoneyGram International in 2004.
- MoneyGram has over 430,000 global agent locations and digital capabilities in more than a hundred different countries.
- MoneyGram provides individuals with services to meet the financial demands of their daily lives. Some of the company’s key products and services include money transfers, bill payments, checks, and money orders.
- In January 2022, MoneyGram completed a strategic minority investment in Coinme. It builds upon the MoneyGram and Coinme partnership announced in May 2021 to create a crypto-to-cash network where consumers can receive bitcoin for US dollars.
LASCO Financial Services Limited (LFSL) is the leading MoneyGram agent in the Caribbean, with over 130 locations on the island. LFSL serves the diaspora by facilitating money transfer for those who support their loved ones in Jamaica. Additionally, we provide non-bank retail financial services such as Cambio, loans, bill payment and most recently digital payment services.