While Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek suggested on Bloomberg TV that the company ‘would consider using Bitcoin’ in future, how likely would that in fact be?
“Not until it is regulated like a currency,” Ersek told Trish Reagan, underlining a continued fundamental misinterpretation of what virtual currency is. And while he noted that Bitcoin is an asset rather than a currency, the reaction to his statements was one of waiting too long for status quo which could never arrive.
“Even the CEO of Western Union wants to get rid of Western Union,” a popular comment by u/spottedmarley posted on Reddit in response to the interview reads.
One perspective to have surfaced following the interview is that Western Union could potentially offer Bitcoin transfers while keeping its fees, which even Reagan noted “have been accused of [being] very high”, comparable to today.
As members of the Reddit community also point out, this would need to be achieved by relying on the willingness of current customers to trust in the service over performing Bitcoin transactions themselves for reasons of security or convenience.
On paper, these two factors manifest in the following ways. Security would come in the form of Western Union’s ability to pay out in 191 currencies with a reduced risk of loss or theft compared to private transactions. The convenience factor, as Ersek mentioned, would stem from the company’s notorious ubiquity.
But while Ersek was all too keen to recite ‘key credentials,’ among them “We go to places other companies don’t go,” he does not account for the evolution of the Bitcoin infrastructure in the meantime.
Should a scenario develop which sees Western Union offering Bitcoin transfers in the next few years, by that point, Bitcoin would more than likely have evolved to include the apparatus necessary for remote buyers and sellers to use a cheaper alternative (more convertor parties in remote locations would be a good example of this).
With a more developed infrastructure comes better security, allowing customers to set value for money as an increasingly high priority. Meanwhile, Ersek played down Reagan’s probes into the perennial issue of Western Union’s vetting practices when accepting payments to certain “contested” locations, cited by Reagan as Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine.
Regardless of technicalities, it remains that Bitcoin and Western Union will not cross paths in the near future, as the former develops and the latter considers strictly fiat-based alternatives.