"We’re going to solve social problems using our unique geographic reach and our products and services," Hikmet Ersek, president and CEO of Western Union, said to Luella Chavez D’Angelo last year when he established the company’s new social ventures initiative and asked her to lead it. Ersek and D’Angelo shared their memories of that conversation with me this morning at Clinton Global Initiative ,along with their plans going forward.
Western Union facilitates money transfers for individuals and businesses through its 510,000 locations in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. So the company had already been playing a leading role in reducing global poverty by serving as a vehicle for migrants sending money back home. As a migrant from humble beginnings himself, who sent money back home to his father in Turkey, Ersek has always identified with the company’s customers.
Yet Ersek was determined to expand Western Union’s products and services to drive additional revenue streams while also solving new problems around the planet. "More than two billion people are financially underserved in this world. This is an opportunity, a necessity, and a privilege to create financial products for the underserved," he said.
On Wednesday, Western Union will announce its newest CGI commitment. Named NGO Global Pay, this new Western Union initiative is being created to help NGOs manage and deliver funds into the field safely and securely. Funds will be moved through bank accounts, mobile phones, and prepaid cards, to send funds to field staff and beneficiaries, using more than 100 currencies.
This transparent approach will eliminate the risks associated with funds passing through a variety of hands. NGO Global Pay will be particularly useful during times of natural disasters and crisis.
According to the commitment, "Western Union will work with NGO partners, including the International Children’s Fund and Peace International, to design financial products that will promote efficient and transparent payments via tools to help NGOs monitor and report on fund disbursement…currency risk management solutions…integrated invoicing and tracking tools and new donation fulfillment capabilities…financial education for NGOs…helping them better manage scarce and vital funds."
D’Angelo is thrilled with her new role as senior vice president of Social Ventures. Previously, she served as president of Western Union’s foundation at the same time she served as senior vice president of global corporate responsibility. In her new role, she explains, "we look at all of our internal resources with an eye to solving social problems. Resources including cash, people, leadership, and technology."
Western Union is actively seeking partners to in the U.S. and the U.K. to test the NGO Global Pay platform and help inform the design process. Current partners include: Architecture for Humanity, Christian Aid, David Livingston International, Freedom From Hunger, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Management Systems International, Nora Lam Ministries, Operation Mobilizations, Peace Direct, Plan International , Save the Children International, Tearfund, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Sinod, World Children’s Fund and World Outreach.
[Image: Flickr user imtfi]