Western Union to adopt Bitcoin?
Western Union, facing growing competition by startups offering mobile and online payments, is trying to transform its business for the digital generation. The company, once known for telegrams, is now investigating new types of digital transactions and investing in analytics to help the company adjust pricing for its electronic money transfer services.
The company is looking at the use of digital currencies like Bitcoin as well as the role Western Union can play in other online transactions, from Internet telephony to video gaming–a far cry from its current business offerings of money transfer, bill pay and prepaid cards. “If you want to top up a Skype account or add value to an online gaming platform, those are the kinds of partnerships I’m working to develop,” said David Thompson, executive vice president of global operations and CIO at Western Union.
Western Union’s moves come as more consumers become comfortable with electronic payments, a field in which the company was an early player. Only 20.2% of bills are paid by mail, today, while 46.5% of bills are paid via a biller, bank or credit union website, according to a survey Western Union released March 25 about consumer migration to new bill payment technologies. About 39% of consumers in the U.S. say they will pay more bills online in 2013 and 12% intend to pay more bills by mobile phone.
Electronic payments growing popularity has attracted competitors such as PayPal, the online-payment unit of eBay Inc. , Remitly.com, and Azimo Ltd. They’ve also given the company new incentive to invest in technology to help it offer competitive pricing for its services. The company hired Mr. Thompson last April and gave him the responsibility of enabling technology for new products that let consumers load prepaid cards, pay bills and transfer money into someone else’s bank account.