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David Drake

March 25, 2019 Article

Can Western Union Inspire Mass Crypto Adoption in 2019?

The international money transfer has continuously been a growing industry since it first entered the market in the 19th century. The wire transfers are significantly faster compared to traditional banking methods and are available in most geographical locations around the world, making it possible for customers to send money in hundreds of currencies.

With the emergence, growth and potential maturity of cryptocurrencies, cross border funds transfer is again bound to improve. This market could get a boost once Western Union, the largest money transfer service in the world, integrates cryptocurrencies and blockchain in its system.

Easily Adopted
In a video released by the company, the Western Union said it is ready to increase its customers’ payment options by adopting cryptocurrencies at any time. In what Western Union described as ‘easy’, the company stated that it would not hesitate to adopt cryptocurrencies when it feels the time is right and will add cryptocurrencies to the 130 currencies it already accepts.

According to its president, Western Union is well-equipped and allocates significant resources to solving the challenges that cryptocurrencies face before they are broadly accepted namely compliance, governance and volatility.

If Western Union adds cryptocurrencies to its international money transfer service, the company will become the first financial service brand to move in that direction. For a considerable period of time now, the company has been exploring the value that the cryptocurrency industry could add to its service.

Last year, the company reported it had started blockchain-based money transfer trials in partnership with Ripple in a bid to increase speed and cost efficiency of its services. Although initial results were not encouraging, the company still has blockchain trials ongoing.

A Welcome Boost
On one hand, news that Western Union could easily adopt cryptocurrencies has been welcomed by cryptocurrency users. The move indicates possibility of leading financial service brands entering the industry.

Qupon CEO, Joseph Oreste says, "Integrating old and new systems is a good way of exposing the public to this new currency. Perhaps it may be cheaper to send a cryptocurrency rather than money orders. It seems that blockchain has resolved much of the need for services like Western Union."

It also adds to the growing voice that cryptocurrencies have the potential to transform the financial sector, countering negative notions that have been formed about the industry. The later will not bring tangible short term benefits to the industry, but steps such as those taken by Western Union could boost adoption of cryptocurrencies.

As the company notes, there is need for cryptocurrencies to be used in mainstream sectors before it can adopt them fully. Once mainstream brands acknowledge and accept cryptocurrencies, 2019 could turn out to be the year of mass adoption.

 Disclaimer: David Drake is on the advisory board for most of the firms mentioned or quoted in this article.

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