Global Money Transfer Business Requires Ongoing Reinvention Amid Rising Competition

While digitization has transformed the global remittance market, it is far from a one-dimensional process.

After all, any money transfer service aiming for global coverage needs to be flexible enough to move money across diverse payment ecosystems and fragmented regulatory landscapes, while meeting the different needs of senders and receivers.

With these evolving factors at play, only players that can adapt will survive in the extremely competitive market, said Massimiliano Alvisini, Western Union’s general manager and senior vice president for Europe CIS and Africa.

And after 171 years in business, the global money transfer giant seems to be holding its own.

From its early days as a pioneer of U.S. telegraphy to the launch of its digital banking platform WU+ this year, the company has reinvented itself multiple times throughout its history, Alvisini told PYMNTS in an interview, pointing to omnichannel financial services as the next stage in its evolution.

The new WU+ money app, which is currently live in Germany, Poland and Romania, is intended to combine Western Union’s cross-border capabilities with the convenience of a mobile wallet, facilitating money transfers, payment card management, and transaction activity.

Related: Western Union Signals Grand Neobank Ambitions With Marqeta Pact

That means that as well as being able to make routine payments, the app can be used to send money to the firm’s 600,000-odd locations worldwide, as well as billions of bank accounts and mobile money wallets.

Harmonizing the EU Single Market

While the Western Union brand is deeply entwined with the cash pickup remittance model, Alvisini said WU+ embodies the firm’s move to embrace cashless alternatives.

This has been made possible through efforts made to become a global digital frontrunner in cross-border payments, which includes making space for modern payment solutions both at the receiver and sender end.

For instance, he pointed to how Africa’s mobile money boom has created an opportunity for the global firm to diversify its remittance model, while creating a shortcut to financial inclusion that bypasses many traditional infrastructures.

As well as accelerating the money transfer process, Alvisini said mobile wallets also help to lower the cost of moving funds across borders, eliminating expensive last-mile costs involved when sending money to remote areas in Colombia, Nicaragua, Ghana or South Africa, for example.

That said, Alvisini acknowledged that there are challenges in the move toward greater digitization of payments.

In Europe, for example, he said that despite the introduction of the EU Single Market, there is more work to be done to mend the fragmented payments market and implement standards to level the playing field across the different European countries.

“That’s what I believe is the next step to creating a level of harmonization that allows the use of new technologies to give people a better experience, keep the financial service industry safe and drive growth and prosperity for millions of people,” he added.


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