Now is the time for financial institution cross-border payments innovation

WU Talks By Rebecca Mann May 8, 2020

In the history of the world, some of the most significant innovations, some of the most impressive advancements in technology, and some of biggest strides for mankind have been made during times of crisis.   Something about a crisis shifts our minds out of the mundane and mobilizes us to act. Projects and initiatives across many industries that could have taken years in a “regular” environment are being executed in weeks or days in the current Covid-19 environment.

At Western Union, exciting innovation is happening right now. In the last few weeks, we announced 50 countries now available for real time account payout, we launched 14 “digital locations” to serve customers during the crisis, we partnered with local regulators to introduce new, groundbreaking e-KYC models to serve customers digitally, and we partnered with Financial Institutions globally to activate new digital cross-border money movement services to meet the evolving needs of their customers.

When looking at Financial Institutions specifically, many of the trends for FI’s that were accelerating before the current crisis have now increased their speed of acceleration.  This is especially the case for digitization.

Before the crisis, digitization in banking was accelerating. In a recent JD Powers report, digital account openings in January 2020 were up 9 points and in-branch account openings fell by 10 percentage points. One North America bank survey indicated that 7/10 banks had prioritized digital account openings and that 35% of their executives consider it a top priority – this was pre-crisis.

In the current environment, maybe you, like me, have also been observing many people who were not very digitally savvy before the crisis turning a corner and signing up for social media accounts, joining community gatherings via videoconference, and connecting to the world in new ways. I suspect this shift will fuel all industries to accelerate their digital offerings and investments in unprecedented ways – and creates new opportunities for Financial Institutions to rise to the occasion and serve their customers better.

We see a few other trends for Financial Institutions also accelerating.  The “real-time mandate,” which is the demand from customers for payments, and increasingly cross-border payments, to be completed in real-time, is a major theme.  Globalization of offerings – ensuring cross-border payments are available with a fully global reach – is becoming table stakes for FI’s who wish to serve their constituents effectively as commercial barriers between countries diminish over time.

For FI’s who want to accelerate their digitization, to significantly advance their real-time capabilities, and to extend their offerings to cover 130 currencies and 200 countries & territories – Western Union is here to help.

Western Union is opening up our platform in new and different ways.  Our one-of-a-kind capabilities for moving money cross-borders can help customer-focused Financial Institutions significantly improve their international offerings – which may be currently limited to legacy wire transfers – to improve digital capabilities, real-time payments, and achieve global reach.  Check out some of our most exciting recent announcements that included collaborations with Saudi Telecom and TD Bank in Canada.

I believe we will look back at this time and history and be very proud for what the world was able to achieve together in times of adversity.  Let’s not lose this moment to evolve, to innovate, to change the paradigms and to catapult our financial offerings for customers into the future.