Money transfer made simple
Salma Massoud, Head of Digital, Western Union Middle East & Africa, on how Western Union leaves no stone unturned to meet its customers' money transfer needs
Can you talk about Western Union's money transfer channels to India from the UAE?
Western Union takes an omnichannel approach to serving its consumer money transfer customers by creating an inclusive customer experience that leaves no one behind. We serve digital-savvy customers in the UAE but also consumers who have not operated in a digital-first environment. Our omnichannel strategy aims to remove barriers so that consumers can conveniently and reliably move money-no matter how they choose to transact.
Thousands of our valued Indian customers in the UAE trust Western Union to send money safely and conveniently to their loved ones and family members back home using our state-of-the-art and highly rated wu.com and the Western Union app. Indian customers can send money to bank accounts, mobile wallets or for cash pick up at Agent locations in India. In addition, they can send money using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) ID allowing them to instantly transfer money to a bank account in India without the need to ask receivers to provide an account number, account type or bank name. More importantly, digital customers in the UAE sending money to a bank account in India using our digital channels can now benefit from our zero-fee offer, which is valid till June 30, 2021.
It is noteworthy that Western Union encouraged customers to use WU.com and the Western Union mobile app to facilitate transactions for payout into bank accounts and digital wallets during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our primary concern was and continues to be the safety of our customers and we are proud that thanks to our digital money transfer services, they have continued to support their family and loved ones even during lockdowns and restrictions on movement imposed by local authorities.
How does Western Union set out costs for money transfers? What are the transfer fees to India?
Western Union's pricing varies among the 20,000 pairs of countries (or corridors) in which we operate and varies with the competitiveness and complexity of the marketplace. The channels and speeds through which funds are transmitted impact our pricing, as do market dynamics including regulatory requirements and infrastructure. Costs associated with transactions in cash are different than costs related to transactions associated with accounts whether wallets, bank accounts or cards.
Our customers also have access to a price estimation tool on our digital channels, including westernunion.com and our mobile app, and can inquire about our fees and rates through our in-country call centres and point of sale at retail locations.
As mentioned, Western Union currently runs a zero transfer fee promotion for digital money transfer customers in the UAE when sending money online to a bank account in India using the westernunion.com website or mobile app. The offer is valid till June 30, 2021. This promotion is part of our commitment to help our Indian customers in the UAE to transfer money online 24/7 in a reliable, cost-effective and convenient way.
How have the remittances flows to India from the UAE been in 2020?
India continues to be the top receiving country of remittances originating from the UAE. According to the Central Bank of the UAE, outward personal remittances from the UAE reached Dh79.6 billion during the first half of 2020 compared to Dh80.96 billion during the corresponding period in 2019. A major part of outward remittances (76 per cent) was transferred through money exchange companies while the rest was channelled through banks in the UAE. India was the top receiving country for remittances made by UAE expats, followed by the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and the US.
What are Western Union's views on the growth of digital money transfers? What are some of the key features you have added to the app?
We believe digital initiated money transfer is a high-growth area and expect it to be the major driver of overall market growth over the coming years. It represents a significant growth opportunity for us. We are delighted to offer our consumers an optimal digital customer experience in the UAE while sending money to their family and loved ones globally. Speed, reliability and convenience are what define our digital services, and this is even more important during these challenging times where customers prefer to transact from the comfort and safety of their homes.
Our state-of-the-art mobile app and revamped website enable customers to send money to their families and loved ones 24/7 from the comfort of their homes for payout at Western Union's Global Network of bank accounts, wallets and Agent locations. They have the choice to pay for transactions on the website or within the app using debit, credit cards or bank transfers. We have been adding more features to our app to make the customer experience optimal. For example, customers can now log-in using biometric identification such as face and fingerprint.
They can send up to Dh183,000 to a bank account in India. The app shows current exchange rates and fees, lists past and pending transactions and provides round-the-clock customer service. Customers can track money transfers directly from their mobile device or find any of Western Union's global agent locations, where money can be collected. Customers can also share the receipt with MTCN details with their receivers using email and social media (WhatsApp).
In addition, customers in the UAE have now the option to get their identity verified in the comfort of their home or office by choosing 'book a visit' during registration and selecting their preferred date. An Al Fardan Exchange representative will visit them at their chosen address to verify their profile.
In 2020, Western Union's mobile app was the most downloaded cross-border money transfer application globally. The app is available in more than 40 countries.
How has Western Union Digital Business fared in the Middle East and globally in 2020?
Western Union's global digital money-moving capabilities have made significant headway across the Middle East, with seven countries now offering online services, connecting customers to their families and loved ones around the world digitally with the choice to pay for transactions in different ways including cards, bank accounts or in person. WU.com is now available in the UAE, KSA, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan. We also keep increasing our account-based money transfer and white label digital partnerships with leading financial institutions and fintech across the region. Our digital channels in the UAE and across the Middle East have performed exceptionally well in 2020.
Globally, digital money transfer revenues increased 36 per cent on a reported basis in the last quarter of 2020 and represented 21 per cent and 32 per cent of the total consumer to consumer revenues and transactions, respectively. Digital money transfer reached new quarterly highs for transactions, principal, and revenues in the current year period. Westernunion.com revenue grew 27 per cent on a reported basis and 26 per cent constant currency, including cross-border revenue growth of 38 per cent.
Westernunion.com average monthly active customers for the fourth quarter increased by 49 per cent year-over-year. Westernunion.com was the most downloaded mobile app among peer money transfer companies during the fourth quarter, according to data provided by mobile app marketing firm Sensor Tower. Our digital services are available in over 75 countries and territories. Account payout is available in approximately 120 countries, with real-time capabilities to select bank accounts and digital wallets in approximately 100 countries, and retail payout in over 200 countries and territories.
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