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Western Union Partners with Ripple to Test Blockchain Payments

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In an exclusive interview with Reuters Plus on December 17, the president of Western Union Global Money Transfer Odilon Almeida, announced that they are “ready to adopt any kind of currency,” and are ready to add crypto as a payment option.

Odilon Almeida was quoted as saying “Western Union is ready today to adopt any kind of currency. We already operate with 130 currencies. If we one day feel like it’s the right strategy to introduce cryptocurrencies to our platform, technology-wise it’s just one more currency. I think cryptocurrency may become one more option of currency, or assets, around the globe to be exchanged between people and businesses. If that happens, we will be ready to launch.”

Odilon Almeida stated there as western union already has a vast lineup of currencies, and as there is no big difference between cryptocurrencies and regular digital payments, adding crypto to its existing line-up of currencies would be an easy task.

Almeida thinks that the company is placed in a very comfortable position where it can bridge the gap between cash and crypto. He further boasts about the company of having access to billions of bank accounts and over half a million retail agent locations.

Since 2015, Western Union has been actively testing Ripple’s cross-border payment technology. Though the initial results were not that encouraging, Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek notified that the company’s tests with xRapid were an infant in stage and possibly “too small” to draw firm conclusions

However, Almeida strongly believes that in order to achieve large-scale acceptance, the underlying issues of volatility, governance, and compliance with cryptocurrencies needs to be solved. As per one of the Western Union executives, the issue of volatility in the crypto markets can be solved by attaching coins to some “strong currencies, such as the [United States] dollar.”

Western Union is also exploring the use of blockchain in addition to cryptocurrencies. As per a press release, the company has already joined hands with Ripple to “test whether sending payments by blockchain was faster and less expensive,” adding that the “tests are ongoing.”

The company’s CEO, Hikmet Ersek, earlier in June 2018 had said that Western Union will not add a cryptocurrency transfer solution to its services anytime soon. He had added that “The consumers tell us what they want. People aren’t paying their hospital bills in cryptos,” But in the last few months, the Western Union’s official stance towards crypto has changed considerably.

As Almeida explains in the company’s blog post, “Cryptocurrencies have so far failed to achieve broad acceptance because they have yet to master three things: governance, compliance, and volatility. But Western Union is already better equipped to solve for such variables because it already moves money across 130 currencies and devotes substantial resources to all of those three challenges.”

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