Western Union service returns to island
After an 18-month hiatus Western Union money transfer services are once again available in Bermuda.
The company launched a new office in the City of Hamilton on Friday under agents Blue Nile Ltd, run by Jerome Dill and Sasina Mekonnen.
Andre Largie, Western Union global money transfer head for the Caribbean, said there was a lot more coming down the pipeline.
“Over the next two years there will be a robust set of innovations brought to the market,” Mr Largie said.
He wasn't ready to say what all the new additions would be yet, but he said digital was the most obvious area for development.
“Venturing into the digital money movement, the business has traditionally been person to person and cash based,” he said. “Now globally we work with banks, dotcoms, and phones. Technically, you could even send money through social media.”
The new office shares space with telecommunications company LiveNet at 1 Burnaby Street. But Mr Largie hinted that the company was already scouting out locations to set up other offices. Typically, Western Union likes to be no more than a ten-minute walk for its customers.
“This is the first of a very strong effort to expand the network,” Mr Largie said.
Western Union has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Bermuda for more than ten years, but Mr Largie was confident they would be able to provide uninterrupted services “from this point forward”.
Mr Largie said his company was pleased to partner with entrepreneurs who had the right mental toughness, attitude and overlying values.
Mr Dill is a corporate lawyer and former United Bermuda Party education minister, and deputy premier, who has worked for companies such as Appleby Bermuda and Validus Holdings Ltd. Ms Mekonnen has been president of Emperial Management (Bermuda Ltd), and co-owner of companies such as Genet Lure and Muse Restaurant Ltd.
“They both came to our attention over two years ago and expressed an interest,” Mr Largie said. “Over the course of doing due diligence, we felt they had put together the right team that included anti-money laundering experts on their board, and also because of the interest they have in building out other services and businesses and expanding a footprint of financial services here in Bermuda.”
With the opening, Western Union launched its direct-to-bank service in Bermuda.
“It is not something that is currently available on the island from any other player,” Mr Largie said. “It acts like a wire transfer, but you can start it from a Western Union office. You bring the account number and routing number, and you can send money to an account.
“Depending on where you are sending money to a bank, there are fees that not only the sender receives but also the receiver. With us, the only fee that is charged is the fee that is at the point of sending. The receiver has no obligation to pay fees to that bank.”
He said this service is also faster taking only 24 hours, compared to the week it sends for someone to receive money, in some jurisdictions.
“Also we have an attractive fee,” he said. “It is $10 to send up to $10,000 from here. That's not a promotional fee, that's the fee.”
He said customers look like “you and me”, but typically might be migrants sending money home, parents sending money to students overseas, or people sending emergency funds to friends or relatives.
“We serve a generally underserved community,” Mr Largie said. “We're aimed at the blue collar worker who can't necessarily leave the job and get to a banking hall before 3pm when the bank closes.
“We are aimed at the small business person that is dealing in cash. There is a need globally for services that provide for financial inclusion.
“Western Union certainly sits right in the middle of that. Ultimately, I think if there is a focus on financial inclusion, economic empowerment and enablement, there is a strong role we can play to further that for individuals and communities, and the country as a whole.”
The service is available Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, and on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm.