Western Union provides fast and convenient digital capabilities, including the ability to send money transfers into billions of accounts. Becoming a digital leader in the industry requires innovation, listening intently to customers, and knowledge of the latest trends and technology.
The money transfer digital space has seen the growth of mobile wallets, expected to hit high double-digit growth in 2020, according to GSMA’s State of the Industry Report. In 2016 alone, there were over 174 million active mobile money accounts in the world.[i]
While mobile wallets are now well established as the predominant financial instrument in Africa, other key receive markets such as India, Philippines, Latin America and China are starting to ramp up on wallets, driven by increased digitalization and financial inclusion. In these countries, wallets represent the most customer-friendly digital touchpoint to complete Western Union’s digital value chain.
“Mobile wallet is a major tool of financial inclusion for emerging markets, enabling previously unbanked customers to access formal financial services by leveraging the global prevalence of mobile phones. In established markets, mobile wallet serves as a virtual replacement of the physical wallet (credit cards, identity, ticketing etc.), and is typically used for purchases at retail or ecommerce using smartphones.”
“Africa is a good example of that. It is a market that went directly from cash to mobile wallet, which really capitalizes on the lack of a strong credit card culture,” he said.
According to Almeida, Western Union has responded to this trend by fostering alliances with mobile network operators in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, enabling cross-border money transfers into wallets from the US, Europe, and beyond.
“The Western Union strategy is to tap into the markets that are well developed,” he said.
Western Union has partnered with 17 mobile network operators across 13 countries, enabling cross-border money transfer into wallet from largely the US and Europe.
Almeida has the opportunity to navigate two interesting worlds, in the helm of Western Union’s global money transfer and as a Board Director at Millicom.
“It was a unique experience seeing mobile wallet from inside of an operator while understanding the cross-border opportunity of the technology. Linking those two is a phenomenal opportunity. I think it would be safe to say that mobile wallets will become more relevant in the world going forward,” Almeida said.
Sending and receiving remittances is easy, and mobile wallet capabilities are set to go beyond borders.
 GSMA 2016, State of the Industry Report