Western Union centralizes global comms function

Comms at the money-transfer company historically were organized by region.

Nicole Vogrin, chief corporate affairs and communications officer
Nicole Vogrin, chief corporate affairs and communications officer

DENVER: Western Union has centralized its global comms function under the leadership of its chief corporate affairs and communications officer Nicole Vogrin.

Comms at the money-transfer company historically were organized by region. More recently, they supported key business units, such as consumer money transfer, global payments and corporate. The names of the regional comms leads were not disclosed.

"Rather than focusing on specific geographies, or residing within a business unit, these leaders have been brought together under one organization to work together in support of the enterprise," said a representative from Western Union agency partner FleishmanHillard.

This restructuring coincides with Western Union’s push to more aggressively expand beyond its core payment remittance business. Western Union wants to grow its B2B division, which generated only $100.6 million for Q3 2019 with flat growth, compared to its C2C revenue, which was up 1% to $1.11 billion.

In August, when Vogrin was promoted to her current role, she and her team started to bring together the disparate comms functions under a single roof, combining them with environmental, social and governance and dedicated corporate brand teams.

Vogrin reports to CEO Hikmet Ersek. She served as his chief of staff before her current role. In that role, she was responsible for leading the corporate communications function. Consumer money transfer and global payment communications previously reported up through their respective business units.

Vogrin’s current 40-person team is spread out across Denver, Lithuania, Mexico City, London and Dubai.

Her direct reports are Pia DeLima, head of global comms and social channels; Joy Miller, head of corporate affairs and ESG; Elizabeth Roscoe, head of global corporate brand and purpose and head of the Western Union Foundation; and Craig TerBlanche, strategic initiatives leader.

The company has rolled out a three-year plan to carry out this transformation. For Vogrin, that means repositioning what the "yellow and black WU" stands for in the future.

"It’s all about packaging and then representing the company holistically to the various stakeholder groups that we interact with," Vogrin said. "And that’s a key part of my role to really design and redesign this packaging of our company."

These changes follow Western Union’s struggle to grow revenue and maintain the same level of profitability against stiff competition from new entrants in the money-transfer business. The company is cutting about 1,200 jobs to lower annual costs by $100 million starting in 2021.

In 2018, Western Union launched its inaugural ESG report, articulating how the company is trying to build more inclusive economies through its infrastructure of 550,000 physical locations and digital payment systems.

The sheer volume of cross-border transactions Western Union handles ($300 billion in principal in 2018, according to Vogrin) illustrates the scope of ability to improve economic development.

But Western Union contends it has a bigger role to play in business payments. For example, it launched Edge in 2016, a platform for small-to-medium-sized enterprises that connects importers and exporters.

"In this digital environment, it’s really creating this opportunity for people to connect to an increasingly globalized economy," Vogrin said.

Western Union has relied on corporate partnerships to launch new businesses, such as e-commerce marketplaces with the help of Amazon, and white-label money transfers through its partnerships with Russia’s Sberbank and Saudi Telecom.

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