Facing P2P Competition, Western Union to Launch Business Service

flags of the worldWestern Union is diversifying.

Its main business, cross-border peer-to-peer payments, faces significant threat of disruption, and rightly so — these payments can be expensive, slow, and far from transparent. Western Union is among the world leaders in the market, moving $75 billion in 2015, some 15% of total consumer remittances.

But fintech players such as TransferWise, Xoom (now owned by PayPal) and Remitly are doing it faster, cheaper, and often better, and are starting to make their presence felt. Western Union’s stock price has dropped 20% in 10 years, and its margins are under pressure. In recent years, it has exerted effort to build ancillary digital businesses, partnering with leading-edge players such as Ripple, and refers to itself in corporate  communications as a fintech company.

Today at Money20/20 in Copenhagen, it launched a new service focusing on remittances for small and medium enterprises (SMEs): WU Edge. In so doing, Western Union steps into territory dominated by e-commerce megaplayers Amazon and Alibaba.

Upon launch later this month, Edge will allow customers to make payments in more than 130 currencies in over 200 countries and territories, leveraging Western Union’s scale and reach. The company claims direct access to over one billion bank accounts.

Edge  will be available in near-realtime service for 22 currencies on April 11th, in six markets: Canada, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and U.K. The service will be realtime for 49 countries within a few months after launch, according to a press release. Edge also provides insights and analytics to help businesses navigate foreign exchange risks and opportunities.

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