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Western Union explores offering a variety of blockchain-based services

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(Kitco News) - The international money transfer company Western Union appears to be preparing to offer crypto-related services based on several recently filed trademark applications.

Trademark attorney Mike Kondoudis highlighted the filings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in a tweet posted on Tuesday, which notes that the company filed their submissions on Oct. 18.

Western Union is looking for clearance to offer a variety of services, including the ability to manage wallets, exchange digital assets and commodities derivatives, issue tokens of value and offer brokerage and insurance services.

The nature of the applications made by Western Union suggests that the company intends to launch its own virtual currency exchange and cryptocurrency token at some point in the future, along with plans to manage and administer digital assets.

Up to this point, the firm has shown a great deal of caution about engaging with blockchain technology. As a major provider of cross-border remittance services, the ability of blockchain technology to facilitate money transfers is undeniable, but the state of development of the technology and lack of regulatory clarity have held it back from going all in.

With competition in the remittance market becoming more competitive, Western Union now appears to be expanding its options in a bid to remain relevant.

Earlier in 2022, the top U.S.-based crypto exchange Coinbase initiated a remittance trial for recipients in Mexico, the world’s second-largest remittance market – posing a direct challenge to Western Union which currently dominates the Mexico market.

The trial featured a service that allowed users to send U.S. dollars and withdraw Mexican pesos. Multiple other service providers have also entered the Mexican market over the course of 2022, and several financial inclusion solutions have emerged to offer alternatives to traditional remittance services.

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Despite the rise in competition, Western Union remains one of the largest players in the global remittance industry and is well-positioned to integrate advancements in technology that help improve its services and reduce the associated costs.

As former Western Union Global Money Transfer President Odilon Almeida once said, the firm is “better positioned to benefit from the crypto-currency movement in the long-term than any start-up.”

“Cryptocurrency might become one more option for a way for assets to be exchanged between people and countries. If that happens, we would be ready to launch,” Almeida added. “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.”

The competition is only going to increase from here, however, as numerous multinational companies – including PayPal and MasterCard – have recently thrown their hats into the remittance ring.

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