Facebook’s Novi, Strike’s Bitcoin App Spell Trouble for Western Union, Analyst Says

BTIG analyst Mark Palmer says traditional money-transfer firms are likely to face increased pressure from crypto projects.

Oct 20, 2021 at 2:43 p.m. UTC
Updated Oct 20, 2021 at 9:54 p.m. UTC

Western Union was downgraded to neutral from buy at investment bank BTIG, which says the company’s money transfer platform may face pressure from free alternatives including Facebook’s new digital remittance app, Novi.

BTIG analyst Mark Palmer also sees competition from Strike’s service, which leverages the Lightning Network on the Bitcoin blockchain for free remittances. Jack Mallers’ Strike is best known as an early partner of El Salvador’s bitcoin experiment.

“The upshot is that the money transfer space appears ripe for disruption, and the disrupters are arriving,” Palmer wrote in a note to clients.

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele estimated that money-services providers like Western Union and MoneyGram will lose $400 million a year in commissions for remittances, thanks to the country’s bitcoin adoption, according to a recent CNBC report.

Remittances have long been heralded by crypto diehards as a key venue for shaking up the existing financial system. Firms like Ripple and Stellar have built their reputations on offering cheap cross-border payments.

Traditional money-transfer giant MoneyGram is working with the Stellar Development Foundation to create instant money transfers using Circle’s USDC stablecoin, the companies said earlier this month.

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Michael Bellusci is CoinDesk's crypto payments reporter.