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May 27, 2021

Western Union’s head of payments UK talks all things diversity

By Evie Rusman

Karen Penney, head of payments products UK at Western Union, tells Evie Rusman that finance has never been “particularly diverse” and is often considered as an “old boys” network.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, financial services have not done well in the past. UK stats from Randstad, in 2018, revealed that only one in 10 management positions within financial services were held by people in the BAME community. Adding to this, 2020 research from Gartner found that only 6% of senior finance roles across the globe were filled by people from minority backgrounds.

And with movements, such as Black Lives Matter, this has put added pressure on financial institutions to up their DEI strategies.

For instance, Bank of America, HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Lloyds, have all set goals to increase the number of people from minority backgrounds in senior roles. In addition, JP Morgan recently announced that two senior female leaders will head up its consumer bank.

Western Union has been praised for its diversity and inclusion targets in recent months – earlier this year, the company received a score of 85 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2021 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), which measures policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality. It was also named in Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index.

Speaking to EPI, Penney discusses how the industry is changing in terms of diversity and how this can drive payment innovation.


The interview coincided with the UN’s World Day for Diversity and Dialogue, which took place on 21 May.

A series of alliances

Aside from its DEI strategy, Western Union has made a series of alliances in recent months. Earlier this month, the cross-payments provider tapped IRIS Software to offer simplified payroll and payments solutions globally.

The five-year partnership aims to cater to the growing demand for cross-border payroll and currency payments for organisations with an international workforce.

This month also saw Google Pay tap Western Union and Wise to debut its international money transfer service for US customers.

The move allows Google Pay users in the US to send money to users in India and Singapore. By the end of the year, Google plans to expand the service to users in more than 200 countries and territories in tie-up with Western Union and to over 80 countries via Wise.

Western Union has also significantly expanded its operations in South East Asia, partnering with NH I&S in South Korea and BRI in Indonesia.

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