Raring to make a splash in Taiwan's multibillion dollar remittance market, money transfer services specialist Western Union yesterday officially launched its Gold Card in Taiwan with Cathay United Bank.
The WU Gold Card allows customers to save time by using a shorter and simpler money transfer send-form, and automatically inserts the remitter's personal data in a secure WU database, the company said.
Ian Marsh, senior vice president and managing director of Western Union in the Asia-Pacific, described the card as the "key" that will open the door to a win-win relationship between the cardholder and the financial services company.
"With over millions of users worldwide, we are certain that nearly one million foreign workers, spouses, and professionals in Taiwan will also welcome the expanded convenience and services that the Western Union Gold Card provides," said Marsh.
"We are also honored to have Cathay United Bank, a (leader) in the financial industry in Taiwan, to grow and develop hand-in-hand with Western Union. Their innovation, operational excellence and customer satisfaction, indeed, are greatly valued by Western Union."
Cathay United Bank and WU are the team to beat, added Joseph Jao, senior executive vice president of the Taiwan bank.
"As Western Union's first banking partner in Taiwan, we are dedicated to strengthening our partnership and offering WU Gold Cards at our bank branches exclusively," Jao said. The two started their partnership six years ago.
Cathay United is also the "forerunner" in Taiwan that offers money transfer services on Sundays, he added. The bank's Chungshan branch in Taipei - just a block away from a church frequented by foreign workers on weekends - is open every Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"This groundbreaking provision shows thoughtfulness, and gives foreign workers and (local) customers too busy to use banking services the opportunity to use Western Union and its money transfer services on Sundays at the strategically selected Chungshan branch," Jao explained.
The WU Gold Card also gives the remittance company and United Cathay Bank the opportunity to offer a stronger value-proposition to its customers, Marsh said.
"Our business has two directions: To help overseas workers in Taiwan remit money home; and to help the two million Taiwanese businessmen in China send money back from China to Taiwan," he said.
In addition to Cathay United Bank, WU also entered into a partnership agreement with Taishin Bank in an attempt to help drive the financial services provider's growth in Taiwan.
The two banks automatically give Western Union a 73-branch money transfer network in Taiwan, the company said.
Western Union Financial Services, Inc., a subsidiary of publicly listed company First Data Corp., has over 238,000 agent locations worldwide. To date, there are four million active loyalty cards in 44 countries with 16 million transactions completed last year.
This year, the number is expected to grow to nearly five million active loyalty cards in 57 countries, and is projected to reach 15 million cards in 115 countries in 2008, the company said.
WU is expecting demand for "fast, convenient, reliable, and secure" money transfer services to further soar owing to the high mobility of people worldwide. Taiwan's outbound remittance market alone amounts to over US$56 billion annually, WU said, citing government statistics.
The remittance specialist also offers several bonuses to its customers, said Marsh.
Since October, the company launched promotional campaigns for its China and Philippine corridors in anticipation of the enormous demand in money transfer services between the New Year and the Lunar New Year. The transaction fee to China has been reduced from US$34 to US$18, while the transaction fee to the Philippines has been slashed from US$12 to US$8, the company said.
"For each money transfer to China, customers will earn a 2006 calendar and be entered into a sweepstake with winners receiving NT$60,000 in cash," the remittance specialist said.
Western Union is pledging to raise the bar in Taiwan's money transfer services arena, Marsh said.
"We are here for the long haul," the executive said. "As I've said before, Western Union is more than just about sending money. We want to be a migrant's 'home away from home.'"