Western Union, one of the world’s largest money transfer services, is delving into the world of cryptocurrency as an addition to its services. The company has been evaluating the potential for cryptocurrencies to speed up its delivery system and reduce costs.
Western Union has already been conducting tests with Ripple to see if cryptocurrency could reduce operation costs. CEO Hikmet Ersek has said that global money transfer did not realize any cost savings on its platform by the use of Ripple. We are always criticized that Western Union is not cost-efficient, blah blah blah, but we did not see that part of the efficiency yet during our tests. The practical matter is it’s still too expensive,” Ersek said in an interview with Fortune.
One might wonder why an individual looking to send money via cryptocurrency would need to go to a service like Western Union, however. The very nature of cryptocurrencies allows them to be sent peer-to-peer without the need for a third party to facilitate the transaction itself.
Although an exchange service would still be needed to convert any cryptocurrencies into local currency, this too can be done peer-to-peer. The ideals of financial sovereignty include the necessity for worldwide transactions being in the hands of the individual, not a financial service.
Additionally, Western Union has been flirting with the idea of using a stablecoin pegged to fiat such as the dollar to combat the volatility associated with cryptocurrencies. In this case, a stablecoin with sufficient technological properties such as scalability and low transaction cost would be required to exist. Otherwise, the digital dollar itself is simpler to use and already exists.
Western Union President Odilon Almeida has acknowledged that Western Union has been using a digital currency for decades, just as everyone does on a daily basis. Fiat currencies are already digital, and with Western Union supporting over 130 existing currencies, the option for digital money transfer is available. Cryptocurrencies are “just one more currency” that may become “one more option” for their platform he says. Their implementation would likely not be revolutionary for Western Union or the cryptocurrency space.
Regardless, as crypto makes its way into mainstream financial services, existing companies must learn and adapt to paradigm changes. It’s simply not necessary for Western Union to try to offer a service for a product that inherently offers the same service itself.