OFW-centric Western Union taps ubiquity of LBC; signs up for digital shift
Western Union, a global money transfer company, is expanding its footprint in the Philippines, announcing on Thursday a partnership with logistics giant LBC Express.
The partnership with LBC, initially covering payout services from over 200 countries and territories, widens Western Union’s scale as competition increases and with financial technology startups and services making inroads in this sector.
Jeffrey de Venecia Navarro, Western Union country director, said in a press conference Thursday there was still a “big preference for the retail type of experience” in the Philippines.
Under the partnership, over 1,200 LBC branches will have money payout services. Western Union already has about 5,900 agent locations in the Philippines.
The combination of two well-recognized brands was also a practical step, Navarro said.
“The partnership with LBC is material because there a lot of customers who have been using LBC in other services, and are very comfortable using LBC. Putting Western Union as a brand with LBC makes sense,” he said.
Western Union and LBC are seeking a bigger share of the money transfer business, considered one of the major pillars of the Philippine economy. Remittances from January to July this year hit $16.1 billion, up 5 percent, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
For the whole of 2017, cash remittances from Filipinos working overseas are forecast to hit $28 billion, up 4 percent, the BSP said.
“The branch network, where you can offer financial services that are compliant with the law, that are compliant with a high level of customer service, are still going to be very important,” Lorenzo Ocampo, president and CEO of Petnet Inc., said on Thursday.
Petnet, also known as Pera Hub, has the largest Western Union agent network in the Philippines.
According to Navarro, the digital shift is already happening—and Western Union is taking early steps.
“Our agents understand that consumers are changing, they also want an option for digital services,” he said, hinting that an announcement here would soon be made.
Navarro added the Western Union group was also studying new payment technologies, including digital currencies like Bitcoin.
“In terms of Bitcoin, I know centrally we are looking at the potential, including the technology of how Bitcoin can be integrated into our system and how it helps in terms of delivering the service to consumers,” he said.
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