By Duncan DeVille
It’s no small feat to transfer money in more than 200 countries and territories and over 130 currencies in just a few minutes. At Western Union, we understand our customers value this speed of service paired with the comfort in knowing their money will arrive at its destination – whether it is for a birthday present for grandma in Mexico City or to help a friend traveling in Bangkok. Because of this, our business depends upon trust and reliability in a global environment.
This is a responsibility we take very seriously because, even though the overwhelming majority of global remittances are used to support friends and family members in need, the networks are also susceptible to exploitation on the part of terrorists and global criminal organizations. These bad actors threaten the individuals, families and businesses we serve, our own agents and the foundation of our business. It is our duty to keep our services out of the hands of those who would use them to do harm.
This is why we created the Western Union Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to identify, investigate and report terrorist financing. The FIU develops and maintains collaborative, trust-based relationships with law enforcement and other government agencies to ensure they have the intelligence and information needed to combat terrorism and terrorist finance. The immediate insight we’ve been able to gain into active investigations has helped identify additional terrorists before they carried out more attacks.
But as I said in testimony on behalf of Western Union to the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance last week, there is still more work to do in ensuring we have the systems in place to effectively fight criminal and terrorist financing around the world. It’s a reason Western Union increased overall compliance funding by more than 200 percent during the past five years and spent approximately 200 million dollars in 2016 on compliance. With more than 20 percent of our workforce now exclusively dedicated to compliance functions, vigilance is a critical and daily priority for our team. We also added more employees with law enforcement, national security and regulatory expertise – myself included – strengthened consumer education and agent training, and bolstered technology-driven controls.
Complying with global regulatory requirements and working with law enforcement to track criminal and terrorist activity is vital to serving our customers and maintaining their trust. Above anything else, we value our customers’ confidence in us and will do whatever it takes to maintain their trust and goodwill.