How Western Union accelerated digital during the pandemic

Good morning,

Although Western Union Executive Vice President and CFO Raj Agrawal’s father was an engineer and influenced his own decision to get a degree in that field, Agrawal says his eyes were set on business the whole time.

“You may or may not believe this, but it was always part of my grand plan when I went to engineering school that I would eventually go get an MBA,” he told me. 

Western Union CFO Raj Agrawal.
Courtesy of Western Union; photo illustration by Fortune

Agrawal joined Western Union in 2006, “when we were about to spin off as a public company from First Data Corporation.” He worked in several leadership positions including president of Western Union Business Solutions before starting his current role in 2014.

Spending a lot of time in the business units of Western Union, even moving to Europe twice for the company, gave him the perspective of a “business-oriented CFO,” he told me. “Whenever I evaluate an issue that is this challenging to us, I step into the shoes of our business leaders and look at it from that perspective because I know that ultimately, we’ll get to the right financial answer.”

During his years at Western Union, Agrawal has seen the company position itself as both a dominant retail and digital money transfer service. A fast-growing part of the 170-year-old business is, available in over 75 countries. Amid the pandemic, new digital services to customers gave the company a revenue boost. 

“We saw more growth last year in our digital business than we ever have before,” Agrawal claims. “And that’s now becoming about 20% of our consumer revenue.” Digital money transfer revenues were up 35% on a constant currency basis in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the company. Western Union’s stock price continued to climb the week of April 12 reaching $25.89, compared to a low of $21.66 in January. 

Western Union is also focused on the global remittance market. The company’s familiarity with the cross-border regulatory requirements and its global network of retail agents can assist both banks and fintech companies in this area, Agrawal says. 

“The remittance market is roughly about $700 billion in principle size,” and about half of that market is handled by banks, he says. Western Union partners with the fintech Saudi Digital Payments Company, or stc pay, a fully owned subsidiary of Saudi Telecom Company. “In Saudi Arabia, you have millions and millions of migrants who have a need to move money,” he says.

“People are typically using their banks to move money around the world,” Agrawal says. “We really believe that we can be the white label provider or branded partner to these banks to give them a turnkey solution to move money from one country to another.”

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada


The role of CFOs within an organization has never been more important. Fortune is building a community for CFO leaders to engage with and learn from colleagues across industries. In partnership with Workday, our CFO Collaborative quarterly event series will focus on the evolving CFO role. Our first conversation will take place May 11 and address “The Critical Role of the CFO in the Post-pandemic World.” We will be joined by Adena Friedman, president and CEO, Nasdaq and Allen Parker, CFO, Zillow. This is the moment for CFOs. Click here to register to attend.

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