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Western Union CEO on Amazon Partnership: Buy Globally and Pay Locally

Western Union has partnered with Amazon to white label their cross-border money transfer platform. “Amazon engaged us to use our platform to service their customers in a better way in order to give access to the millions of customers who don’t have an access today to buy online and pay,” said Hikmet Ersek, the CEO of Western Union. “In the future, they will have the capability to buy globally and pay locally.”

Hikmet Ersek, President, CEO, Western Union, recently discussed the new partnership with Amazon, competition with Zelle and Vinmo, and the overall health of the business:

Western Union Digital Business is Growing Very Well

Our digital business is growing very well year over year. We are now in 50 countries with our digital business sending money to over 200 countries. We pretty much cover the world with digital. Our digital growth is very strong. Our retail money transfer business has been stable. In some countries, we have been a little bit slower like in the Middle East, but we had very strong growth in Europe and US outbound business. Our US domestic business has been a little bit slower than we thought. Generally, I would say that we had a very stable solid quarter and we are very excited about the future.

You Can’t Send Money From Your Mobile

US to Domestic there has been some competitive environment. Nothing changed like last quarter. We have certain customers that like to pick up cash immediately. Nobody can beat that. You can’t send (cash) money from your mobile. We pay out in cash immediately. There are also competitors like Zelle and Vinmo who have been capturing some market share there with their zero fee environment. That has definitely been US dominated but is only a small part of our business, seven percent of our revenues. We are more focused on the outbound business, global cross-border business. That has been growing very well.

Western Union is White Labeling Platform to Amazon

Amazon has engaged us, over the years we have been building a cross-border platform, which is unique. We are moving transactions in 132 currencies globally and we do about 32 transactions every second. We have a network of 550,000 locations. We are reaching out to about 4 billion accounts globally. This is a unique platform where today we serve our customers with this platform.

Companies like Amazon engaged us to use our platform to service their customers in a better way in order to give access to the millions of customers who don’t have an access today to buy online and pay. In the future, they will have the capability to buy globally and pay locally.

The Amazon partnership is for us very exciting because now suddenly we are opening our platform to new customer segments, white labeling to other organizations like Amazon. Today, we are serving our existing customers with our branded transactions. In the future, we will be able to serve huge organizations like Amazon, or Amazon will engage us with other organizations, to engage our platform and to use our platform to serve their customers.

Paying Amazon Has Been a Real Obstacle for Some

“There are people in the world who want greater access to Amazon’s huge product selection but paying for those purchases has been a real obstacle for many customers,” said Hikmet Ersek, president and CEO of Western Union. “We’re leveraging our money movement platform to make it easier to shop global and pay local. By facilitating the complex foreign exchange and settlement process, we’re opening up more consumer choices and access to online shopping for tens of millions of potential new Amazon customers.”

Forrester Research estimates that cross-border shopping will make up 20% of e-commerce by 2022, with sales reaching $ 630 billion. Choice, quality and cost are the main motivations for consumers to shop online from overseas, but there are challenges and concerns about the lack of payment options for consumers who prefer to pay in person or consumers who are not comfortable using online payment methods.

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