[Updated with exclusive interview with David Thompson, CTO and EVP at Western Union]
Western Union and WeChat, China's biggest messaging app, announced an agreement which enables WeChat users in the US to send money cross-border to 200 countries and territories via the company’s WU Connect platform.
The collaboration makes WeChat the first social communication application that provides a technology platform for P2P cross-border transfers in more than 200 countries and territories. The capability is now available to WeChat users in the United States, with planned expansion to more countries in the future. In addition to mentioned advantages for WeChat, it also strengthens the position of Western Union as a market leader in the digital money transfer space providing customers a fast and easy way to receive money. Users can send money from their bank account, or use credit/debit cards, to a Western Union retail agent location globally as well as to mobile wallet or bank account where available.
Hikmet Ersek, CEO of Western Union, commented on the collaboration in the official press release, Western Union's omnichannel strategy is combining our digital presence with our distribution network that pays out in over 200 countries and territories. Given the proliferation of social media around the world, we are expanding our activities in this exciting area. It only makes sense to include the WeChat platform as part of the company’s innovative digital money transfer capabilities. By teaming with WeChat and deploying the WU Connect platform to its US users, Western Union is offering yet another new method for consumers to move money worldwide.
In October this year, Western Union introduced WU Connect Platform that allowed the company to expand cross-border money transfer via mobile and social media. WU Connect embeds Western Union’s global money transfer capability into third-party digital platforms to allow users send money to friends and family quickly and conveniently. According to the press release, the platform offers a suite of APIs built on a highly scalable infrastructure, enabling fast deployment of domestic and cross-border remittance capabilities.
David Thompson, EVP of Global Operations and Technology and CTO at Western Union, expressed excitement about the potential impact of this new offering in an exclusive briefing with LTP founder, Aditya Khurjekar, "It was important that WeChat users did not have to change their messaging experience to be able to use the WU Connect enabled capabilities." David explained how his technology team worked hard to ensure that the integration was completed without expecting the hundreds of millions of WeChat users to change their habits. "This puts Western Union in a position to extend its digital platform to networks whose users are looking for more convenient ways to send and receive money globally on a platform of their choice." He also shared some glimpses of what to expect in the near future, "We will soon have an ability for the recipient to deposit the money in a digital wallet as well. The feature set will continue to evolve". When asked about Blockchain, David was nonchalant, "We are obviously looking at all promising technologies for the future, but Western Union's current infrastructure is efficient and robust to serve our needs. There is no place for Blockchain in our systems right now."
By collaborating with WeChat, Western Union is entering the market of mobile payments to compete with companies like Square, PayPal, Facebook Messenger, Snapcash and possibly, Apple. However, because of the impressive size of the global remittances market of $400 billion, WU and WeChat are sure have their piece of the global pie.
About Western Union:
The Western Union Company is a leader in global payment services. Western Union provides consumers and businesses with fast, reliable and convenient ways to send and receive money around the world, to send payments and to purchase money orders. In 2014, The Western Union Company completed 255 million consumer-to-consumer transactions worldwide, moving $85 billion of principal between consumers and 484 million business payments. To learn more, click here.
WeChat is one of the world's fastest-growing social apps, innovating new ways to connect, communicate and share. WeChat is owned by Tencent Holdings Limited, which serves 600 million active users and saw a yearly increase of operating profit in Q3 2015 of 37% according to the company's most recent report. WeChat brings together messaging, social communication and games all within one easy-to-use app. To learn more, click here.