Moving Money for Better


Last year, we moved more than $150 billion for both people and businesses around the globe: 28 transactions a second, 100,000 transactions an hour, 2.4 million transactions a day. We have half a million locations in over 200 countries and territories. Last year, our services touched 147 million people. We can move money in more than 120 currencies, more than any bank.

Who are we? We’re Western Union, a leader in global payment services. Our core customers are the world’s 215 million global citizens: people who are moving to new places in search of better lives and are committed to supporting their families back home. That support often takes the form of remittances – a father living abroad sending money to his family in his home country, for example.

In many countries, remittances are among the top sources of income. Studies have shown that families who receive remittances invest in the future – sending a child to school or funding a new business. In India, the average amount sent home is $400, which can pay for four months’ rent on a one-bedroom apartment or for more than a full year of gas, electric and water service. The average amount sent home to China is $1,500, which can buy one month of food for eight adults, or four years of private elementary education.

These global citizens “double belong” to two worlds: their home countries and where they live now. These unique people have been the focus of our business for many years, and we are very proud of the role we’ve played in their lives. But the world is changing, and as it changes, Western Union is evolving, too: from a company with one major line of business and one target customer to one with multiple business lines and many new customer segments.

Our vision is to serve the world’s “underserved,” people around the globe who do not feel well-served by or have difficulty affording traditional bank accounts. This includes our core customer, of course, but also many new customers: students and travelers who have a need for tools like prepaid cards. People who want to send money from their bank accounts online. People who want to send and receive money using just a mobile phone. Businesses that want a better and easier way to make international payments.

Our vision is to offer multiple ways for people and businesses to move money anytime, anywhere, any way they want. We are committed to all of our customers, of course, but in particular to our Hispanic customers, who are one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population.While new, digital ways of moving money are gaining traction, the need for cash will continue. In many parts of the world, tens of millions of people rely on cash as the only way to do business. And we’ll be there for them – with our ever-growing physical network of locations and a brand that’s as recognizable as Coca-Cola.

Our services make a difference in the lives of millions of people and businesses every day – and we’re very proud of that. We are a powerful economic force all over the world. But simply operating a business and offering convenient services is not enough. We must give back to the people who use our services. Giving back is part of Western Union’s DNA. Since 2001, the Western Union Foundation has given nearly $82 million in 124 countries and territories.

One of the primary ways we give back is through education. You may wonder why a financial services company puts a priority on education. The reason? Our customers do, so we do too. A lot of the money people send home to family and friends helps pay for education – tuition, school fees and books. In many markets, up to half of the money received in remittances is used for education.

We believe education is a necessity, not a luxury, which is why it’s a major focus of our giving.

We also believe that access to financial services is a necessity. To us, the idea of serving the underserved does not mean limiting their financial options. It means expanding them.We have done that by placing ourselves at the nexus between cash and electronic payment methods, between retail and electronic channels.

We are investing in the technology and infrastructure that will drive continued growth by anticipating the emerging needs of our customers – no matter where they live, what their ethnic background, or what technology they choose to use. No other company is doing this on the same scale that we are.We are giving people choices. We are making it easier than ever for people to move money when, how, and where they want. We’re Western Union, and we’re moving money for better.

Hikmet Ersek is the President and CEO, Western Union