Western Union is testing Ripple’s technology to improve cross-border payments. That’s what Molly Shea, CEO of WU Asia Pacific, said in a podcast by analyseasia.
Since the advent of Bitcoin, the market for international payments has been more competitive than ever before. At the latest since Ripple is increasingly competing with SWIFT, even the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication sees itself forced to secure its monopoly position with technological innovations. As it turns out, the US cash money trader Western Union is now also dealing with SWIFT’s competition.
Western Union and Ripple: When old acquaintances collide
Ripple and Western Union have not yet had the best relationship – at least from a PR point of view. One or the other may remember: After an unsuccessful statement from the payment service provider Western Union, the Ripple community did not let itself be deprived of roasting the company on a thick flame. But it looks like Western Union won’t be deterred by this. In an interview with Molly Shea, Western Union learned that they were testing how to integrate Ripple’s technology into their system.
Back in June 2018, WU allegedly tested xRapid and XRP token for money transfers and concluded that there were no savings made.
“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,” WU CEO Ersek said in an interview with Fortune at the Economic Club of New York. “The practical matter is it’s still too expensive.”
He said the company would only use XRP for payments if it could reduce the costs of Western Union. The executive did note that the pilot Western Union is involved is could be “too small,” since it only tested it for transfers between the U.S. dollar and the Mexican peso.
Ripple’s answer to this came from Asheesh Birla, a senior vice president of product at Ripple:
“If they were to move volume at scale, then maybe you would see something, but with 10, it’s not surprising that they’re not seeing cost savings,” Birla told Fortune. “They do millions of transactions a month, and I’m not surprised that with 10 transactions it didn’t have earth-shattering results.” If Western Union were to use it more expansively, it could lower the costs by at least 50 percent for each transaction, noted Birla.
Western Union boss Molly Shea: “A 160-year-old start-up”.
In a podcast interview with management consultant analyseasia, the CEO of Western Union Asia Pacific initially ranked in the top league of financial technology companies:
We at Western Union say: We are the original FinTech. We are a 160-year-old start-up. We have learned a lot from this story, which goes back to 1851. We were able to achieve flexibility and position ourselves in the market without […] abandoning our values.
It is also in the DNA of Western Union to be disruptive. That is why we want to guarantee cross-border payments for people all over the world. Because:
Digital technologies are changing the world. And nobody should be left behind.
“Physical forms of money will not disappear.
When asked about the financial inclusion of developing countries, the oldest FinTech start-up in the world replied that it at least offered the infrastructure to guarantee it. However, Shea does not believe that Bitcoin, Ripple & Co. are in a position to replace cash:
Physical forms of money will not disappear. Cash remains the dominant means of payment in much of the [world]. It is still too early to predict the future of digital currencies. […] But as a company that invented the concept of digitizing money, we are well positioned to make this area accessible to our customers.
Ripple to help with international payments
The start-up company is not averse to turning to technological innovations. Molly Shea announced that Western Union was currently experimenting with using Ripple technology or XRP for international payments:
Blockchain and crypto currencies are evolving. We are also conducting tests in this field. We are currently experimenting with settlement tests from Ripple for certain application areas. The US dollar and the Mexican peso are examples of this. […]
Meanwhile, the WU leader did not disclose any technical details. However, it seems obvious that the company is using XRP and xRapid to ensure the smooth transfer of US dollars into the Mexican peso.
If we compare the figures here, one question might arise for customers: Why not try crypto currencies right away? Western Union offers remittances starting at 3.90 euros. For comparison: Ripple transactions are already available from 0.00001 XRP (10 drops). With the present Ripple course that is about 0.000003 euro. Also the fees for Bitcoin are a record low levels.
What is the actual goal of Western Union?
However, the question arises: what is the real goal of Western Union and the like? Is their goal to offer the best possible service to their customers with as efficient money transfer as it gets OR is their job to maintain the status quo, quelch the emerging competition and remain dominant in the cross-border money transfers? Their to date business practices indicate it is the latter one.