How Amazon and Google Are Helping Western Union Fight the Multibillion-Dollar Fintech Threat
By Joel Dreyfuss
You don’t get to celebrate your 168th birthday by standing in place. Consider the company that started out in 1851 as the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Co. More than a century and a half later, Denver-based Western Union is the leader in international money transfers, generating revenue of $5.5 billion in 2018 and doing business with tech giants Amazon and Google.
“You have to have the courage to disrupt yourself before you’re disrupted by somebody else,” says Rebecca Loevenguth, vice president of transformation at Western Union. “It’s in our DNA.”
Change has been the mantra at Western Union since its early days as a provider of telegraph services. It bought up incompatible competitors and created the first transcontinental communications network. Payments by “telegraphic money exchange” soon followed. Although it passed up an opportunity to buy up Alexander Graham Bell’s newfangled telephone, Western Union stayed on the cutting edge of technology. The company set up an intercity fax network, replaced telegraph operators with teletype machines, created a system of microwave towers and launched the first domestic communications satellite system. And we shouldn’t forget the singing telegram and Candygram.