Western Union: Expanding our digital footprint

Regional News By Khalid Fellahi November 4, 2019

I am honored to lead the Western Union Consumer Money Transfer (CMT) business – the cornerstone of our company. We believe we can grow revenues in the low-single digits over the next three years against a backdrop of a global remittance market estimated to grow at 4% per year from 2019-2021, providing a steady macro environment, which in recent quarters has demonstrated its resiliency in an extremely competitive environment and increasing geopolitical tensions.

Talking about numbers demonstrates the strength and resilience of our current core business—moving money–which is as necessary now as it has been since money was invented.

That said, what I am more excited to talk about is the future of our core business, and that future is digital.

A key change taking shape within the global remittance market is the move to a prolific multi-channel model. This plays to our key strengths as having both a fast-growing digital business, combined with our world-spanning retail Agent network. We have spent the last several years doing the ‘hard yards’ of building a future in which our customers needn’t choose whether to send or receive money in person, via a computer, or using their phone. Because they can do any or all these, even within the same transaction.

In fact, they’re doing it already. Take a look at this:


That is an actual, real-time snapshot, taken a few weeks ago, of the transactions moving across our physical and digital networks in that moment. We serve 20,000 pairs of countries and territories, averaging 25 transactions per second.* This movement is powered by a digital presence in over 70 countries, 550,000 retail agent locations in more than 200 countries and territories, combined with bank payout in more than 100 countries and a with access to billions of bank accounts worldwide. The money movement depicted in that image runs the gamut from bank account to bank account, in-person to in-person, and everything in between. We have built our Consumer Money Transfer Network to accommodate just about any need our customers may have to move their money to those they care about.

Our global footprint and cross-border capabilities at scale are unmatched. While some companies limit the number of corridors they serve to the most popular ones, Western Union has always challenged itself to spread farther and cross boundaries and barriers that others never thought possible.

Simply put, we have the unique reach and versatility to expand our market share across other segments within this sector and compete in today’s marketplace

And we’re continuing to grow our digital network in emerging markets to serve untapped growth across the gulf countries as well as emerging markets of Asia : In addition, by 2022, we expect to serve the majority of countries with access to bank accounts and wallets, up from 100 today; also by 2022, we will be moving money in real-time in the majority of countries as well.

Vamsi lives in the US and uses his phone to send money home to his mother in India and to his brother at school—both of whom pick up that money, in cash, at a Western Union® retail location near them. Please take a look:


Vamsi, and people like him (a group which includes me and many of my colleagues including Western Union’s leadership, by the way) are global citizens —there are more than 270 million of us, according to the World Bank—who provide for their families by sending home money for essentials like food and housing, and also for schoolbooks, medical care and the support of family businesses. This money goes to needs that are constant, always there, regardless of what national or the global economies are doing.

That is why global remittance flows are so resilient and keep growing. Eighty percent of global remittance flows go to emerging economies,** as the people sending them act as economic multipliers: working and contributing to the economies in their host countries, then sending money back to their home countries, building that developing economy and the interconnected global economy in turn.

We at Western Union are proud to be helping build a more economically connected world. But we are also committed to making that new world easy for our customers to navigate.

As our physical and digital footprints continue to grow, so does our ability to tailor our customers’ experiences: more than 150 million customers around the world trust Western Union with their most important and complex money transfers. Whether it’s sending money overseas to a loved one, sending money in an emergency, or handling complex multi-currency transactions, our customers turn to us with trust, confidence and assurance that we will move their money in a fast, reliable and convenient fashion.

In the future, using artificial intelligence and machine learning, we’ll make our services even more customer centric. Using discrete, real-time data, we’ll be able to offer products and services that best suit a customer’s needs at a given moment—such as a very attractive fx rate, movement to a certain location, an additional service such as insurance, etc.

We’ll also be working on flagship locations, what we call our “Platinum Network.” Working with select agents, we will build customer experiences that help us create even more loyalty, good word-of-mouth and maximum value from every customer. We aren’t just offering a service; we are fostering a long-term relationship with our customers.

There aren’t many businesses you can be in and feel like you help people on so many different levels: from loved ones helping each other in individual families, to helping build emerging economies, to strengthening the economic and social ties that connect everyone around the world. Doing all those things as part of a business built for growth, finding new and innovative ways to serve your customers just as the market is only getting bigger, is one more reason we feel like we’re in the right place at the right time.


**World Bank