Western Union Open to Bitcoin 'If Regulated as Currency'

CEO Hikmet Ersek is open to using bitcoin in payments, but only once the digital currency is fully regulated.

AccessTimeIconJun 26, 2014 at 10:43 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 2:06 p.m. UTC

Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek has said his company is open to the idea of using bitcoin, but only once the digital currency is fully regulated.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Ersek discussed how the company deals with security concerns and its role as a global jobs creator. However, the bitcoin bombshell is what makes the interview most interesting for cryptocurrency enthusiasts and investors.

Regulation vital

When asked about the potential threat coming from bitcoin, which offers a far cheaper way to move value around the globe, especially considering Western Union's "expensive" pricing, Ersek argued that, if the service was too expensive, customers wouldn't use it.

He then pointed out that Western Union already offers the ability to move 121 different national currencies, and that, notably, bitcoin could become one of them, but only if it is properly regulated:

“Once bitcoin should be regulated by the regulator as a proper currency, why should we not also use bitcoin?"

We would use it "if it is regulated as a currency, but it is not regulated as a currency," he emphasised, adding:

"That’s the issue with bitcoin. We are a very regulated industry. If bitcoin is regulated and the customer wants that, I mean, why not? [...]

I am not sure bitcoin is a currency. Bitcoin is a system. It is not used as a currency, it is defined as an asset. When the reserve bank issues bitcoin and when it is regulated we would be more than happy.”

While it may seem promising that the company would consider adopting the digital currency in its portfolio, the fact remains that bitcoin is unregulated in most countries and is not anywhere considered a currency.

So, Ersek’s statement pretty much shuts the door on bitcoin in its current form. However, it does, perhaps, open another for regulated digital currencies backed by the traditional finance industry.

Cryptocurrency criticisms

Earlier this year Ersek criticised digital currencies as a First-World phenomenon with limited practicalities on the receiver-side, which is crucial to Western Union’s business model.

In addition, Western Union made its formal position on digital currencies clear last year.

Speaking at the 2013 Consumer Protection & Compliance Conference last October, executives from the company concluded that bitcoin is not ready for international money transfers yet, due to a number of potential issues.


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