Dear fellow shareholders,
It is a privilege to be leading Western Union, an iconic, purpose-driven, and diverse organization, and an exciting time to be taking the helm.
As we enter the next chapter of our proud 171-year history, I’ve been listening to our customers, agents, partners, and employees, and am excited for the future we all share— building upon strong foundations to expand our impact, increase our reach, and accelerate our pace.
One thing that has deeply impressed me is how our company resides in the fabric of so many people’s lives. The part we play in helping build better futures for our customers, their families, and their communities is a source of pride and purpose for our employees, agents, partners, and shareholders.
2021 BUSINESS HIGHLIGHTS
We start from a great place, with an iconic, trusted global brand. We have a worldwide retail agent network of hundreds of thousands of locations, serving millions of customers every day, coupled with a $1 billion+ digital business. Together, these form the basis for a marketleading omni-channel offering. We also boast strong regulatory, compliance, and risk management capabilities, and a talented and dedicated workforce passionate about building upward economic mobility for our customers. All this puts us on a great footing to begin building the next chapter in our company’s future.
In 2021, Western Union generated $5.1 billion in revenue and more than $1 billion of operating cash flow. Our digital business passed the $1 billion revenue mark, growing 22 percent from an already historically strong 2020. We returned more than $780 million to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases and announced in February 2022 a $1 billion, 3-year share repurchase program. We struck new partnerships with some of the world’s premier companies, and renewed or expanded existing ones, pursuing our goal to be the world’s crossborder money-mover of choice.
FIVE PRIORITY AREAS FOR 2022
As part of a ‘fresh eyes’ effort to look at our strengths, as well as our opportunities, I recently began a strategic review of the business. I do this with an eye toward identifying new business opportunities, streamlining existing business functions, and accelerating execution. As customer interactions and preferences accelerate toward digital, we must navigate headwinds in the cash-tocash remittance business by building on the core strength of our omni-channel network. It is incumbent upon us to find new ways to leverage our assets and brand, expand our relationships with our customers and agents, increase loyalty, and drive financial performance. We expect to share our new approach with you in the September/October timeframe.
While our updated strategy will likely introduce new opportunities for us to pursue, we believe driving on these five key dimensions will continue to build our foundation for the future and we expect to stay highly focused on them in 2022:
1. Growing Digital
Our digital growth has been strong off a large base. That said, I see opportunity for continued growth. We will continue to invest in digital customer acquisition around the globe and will begin to put more focus on enabling customers wishing to move from retail to digital to do so more seamlessly. We can sustain our positive momentum by continuing to work with local partners around the globe that have access to customers and find value in our platform and brand.
- In 2021, digital comprised 24% of our total C2C business, continuing to be a significant contributor to our overall company growth.
2. Transforming the Retail Experience
We see our leadership in retail as critical to our success and an ongoing source of omni-channel and digital consumers. We have seen the evolution of many digital-only market leaders in other industries towards the integration of retail experiences to improve their overall value propositions. Many of our best customers today seek more than just a digital-only experience. We will continue to focus on delivering the best products and services for customers who must or prefer to use our retail channel.
- We will continue to work hand in hand with partners— whether distribution partners, or technology partners enabling our platforms and services—to continuously improve the customer experience in retail point of sale.
- We will continue to partner with others to expand our global network, serving customers across the full range of physical and digital touchpoints and channels, ranging from conventional retail to digital POS
3. Expanding our Ecosystem
The search for financial opportunity often leads our customers to cross borders and begin life in a new country. Our remittances services enable them to send support back home. We believe we can do more for them and their recipients. We want to provide customers with the best end-to-end experience in moving money and we want to help them actively manage their broader financial lives. By offering the products they need in convenient ways, we can win customers’ hearts and minds along with an increased share of their business.
- The recent launch of our multi-currency wallet and digital bank account in Germany and Romania has opened access to banking services for customers previously underserved by traditional financial institutions.
- We are working to accelerate rollouts in other markets, making a difference for more customers and laying the groundwork for our future.
4. Driving Efficiencies
Growth is one driver of Western Union’s profitability: Efficiency born of fresh thinking is another. At our Investor Day in 2019, we articulated a strategy to increase profitability by driving further efficiencies through a restructured organization, commissions, and vendor expenses while growing our top line. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our revenue plan, but we have been successful in our cost management initiatives, resulting in an improvement in adjusted operating margins of more than 200 basis points since 2019. The strategic review mentioned above will identify additional opportunities to continue to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our business and enable us to invest into new growth areas for our business.
5. Building a High-Performing Team
I believe in the power of high-performing teams. Building a diverse, world-class workforce is necessary as we move into our next phase of growth. In this area, too, we build on a solid foundation:
- We have strengthened our efforts to bring more diverse candidates into our organization, while creating a culture of inclusion and belonging to ensure they stayand grow with us.
- We continued to support our employees in 2021 by investing in initiatives to foster health and well-being as we move toward a flexible, human-centric work environment that values productivity and innovation.
- We were recognized with inclusion in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (for the third year); by the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index as a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality; and by Ethisphere, a global leader in advancing standards of ethical business practices, as a World’s Most Ethical Companies® Honoree. And our scores with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings and rankings organizations such as MSCI and JUST Capital continue to improve.
NAVIGATING A RAPIDLY EVOLVING INDUSTRY
The pace of change in our industry continues to accelerate. I believe that the future of our company will be decided by how well we anticipate and respond to the opportunities our shifting environment presents. The last two years have made even more clear that flexibility is the way forward. As we continue to invest in our digital future and drive more digital growth, we also need to make sure our retail operations stay competitive and ready to serve the customers who prefer that channel, or a combination of such — engaging with our brand digitally and in retail. In many cases these retail customers of today are digital customers of tomorrow.
Behind the scenes, enabling our ability to serve customers how and wherever they want, we continue a significant technology migration to the cloud. Many of our core processes and most of our data are there today, and we are working to finish migrating our core transaction engine by mid-2023. By placing many of our Customer Relationship Management components in the cloud, we have already seen an improvement to our customer experience and servicing platforms.
We move steadily toward our goals by offering the flexibility of digital, retail, or a combination of the two, all running on a platform we developed and built to be ready for the future.
GUIDED BY PURPOSE
Our employees provide the energy, enthusiasm, and ingenuity that drive our success. Attracting, retaining, and developing talent starts with maintaining a culture of purpose. We have always considered our Company’s purpose not just in terms of financial goals, but in the context of our larger contributions to society. In the last few years, against the backdrop of COVID-19, our determination to be a global champion for inclusive economic prosperity has been especially keen.
Remittances have played, and continue to play, a crucial role in alleviating poverty and driving financial inclusion throughout the pandemic and into the recovery period, particularly in emerging economies. In the post-pandemic economic rebuilding that lies ahead, there will be a significant need for innovation and technology to keep financial support flowing across borders, especially to developing countries.
The Western Union Foundation in 2021 continued to support COVID-19 relief efforts, over and above its core mission of supporting migrants through skills training and integration support. After two years, the Opportunity Beyond Borders initiative has disbursed $14 million, helping more than 300,000 people join the global economy, as well as responding to 21 disasters. Seventy-five percent of Western Union employees donated or volunteered in 2021, giving over $2.5 million to local community projects.
Finally, we issued our third ESG Report, which supports transparency around our social and environmental impact, and details the connection between our purpose and our business strategy. I hope you will look for our fourth annual ESG Report, which will be released this summer.
WORDS OF THANKS
I’ll close this note with thanks on several fronts. First, a heartfelt thank you to my predecessor, Hikmet Ersek. His passion for our mission and diligent advocacy for migrants was the through-line of all his years at Western Union, burnishing an already-iconic brand with a purpose and principle that few other companies can match. We wish him and his family all the best.
To the Western Union team, I thank you for both your hard work and the inspiration you give me. Facing not just COVID, but also natural disasters and a resurgence of global conflict, you continue your vital work with an agile, innovative spirit. I’m excited to see what we can do together.
I’ll also thank our Board of Directors, for both giving me this opportunity and their helpful guidance as I continue to settle into it. I look forward to working with them for years to come.
And finally, thanks to you, our shareholders, for your trust in our business. I and the thousands of other Western Union employees around the world are committed to living up to that trust as we work to fulfill our purpose and create value for you.
One thing about a 171-year-old business: It’s seen a lot. Western Union has made history through plagues, wars, and disasters, innovating and evolving through times of both grinding poverty and unprecedented prosperity.
Through it all, we have never lost sight of what we are about: connecting people, helping them stay in touch with what matters, using our technology and expertise to bridge distances large and small. Always, as the world has changed around us, we have changed what we are, but never who we are.
We built our past by always building for the future. And we are, every day, beginning anew.