New Western Union research maps consumer sentiment in the United Arab Emirates about current and future money movement capabilities and needs
Citizens and residents of the United Arab Emirates (the UAE) expect to transfer more money internationally in the next 12 months, according to a study commissioned by Western Union. Exclusive insights show that 76% of consumers who send money and 75% of consumers who receive money, respectively, expect to transfer and collect even more funds over the next year.
“We understand that diverse populations have equally diverse needs. Festive seasons and special moments are a great example, whereby every year, we see an uptick of approximately 6% in the volume of remittance transactions as these occasions approach”
The study, which surveyed more than 1,000 UAE-based citizens and residents who send and receive cross-border money transfers, explores consumer sentiment on how, when and why they move money. The results bolster Western Union’s recently announced ‘Evolve 2025’ (E25) strategy of combining high-value, accessible retail and digital financial services.
Family support is highlighted by 60% of senders as the primary reason for transferring money overseas. Saving for the future comes in a distant second, ranked by 11% of senders. A well-known melting pot of cultures, the UAE is home to more than 200 nationalities and ranks among the top most talent competitive countries. Some of its more sizeable communities come from the world’s largest remittance-receiving economies.
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Caring for family back home is further re-enforced as one of the main factors driving the number and amounts of overseas transfers. Furthermore, as increased living expenses and global currency fluctuations create additional pressure on personal finances, 74% state that because of higher cost of living in the country they send to, they need to transfer more money. Seventy-one percent state that they take the opportunity to send more money when the currency value falls in their receiving country.
“To remit is often a very personal decision. Western Union data also supports that one of the most common reasons why consumers remit is to support loved ones and family,” said Jean Claude Farah, President of Middle East and Asia Pacific at Western Union. “So it is only natural that as the global economic climate challenges affordable ways of living, family support takes precedence over everything else as senders move money.”
“Continuously attracting such a diverse range of nationalities is a true testament to the UAE’s efforts to position itself as a global partner, and an attractive and influential economic hub,” Farah added. “We believe that these ongoing efforts will also mean that the UAE will continue to ride the top spot as one of the biggest senders of remittances in the world. It also makes it even more incumbent on us as businesses to connect people to opportunity; Western Union has been doing this for consumers in the UAE for almost 25 years and is deeply committed to the country. As we evolve and grow in the years ahead, we remain steadfast in enabling an environment that drives financial inclusion and creates pathways for long-term economic success across the country’s societies.”
Cultures and familial ties influence the frequency and flow of money
Sending money shortly after payday regardless of wider economic circumstance (34%), or family needs back home (32%) are the two best-known drivers of money transfer flow and frequency. However, Western Union’s study also shows a third factor: almost a quarter (21%) of consumers say they focus on sending money during festive occasions such as Ramadan, Christmas, New Year and Diwali, as well as other special occasions, such as birthdays, graduations and anniversaries.
In an interesting reversal of this trend, 37% of UAE consumers who receive money transfers also say frequency and amount is influenced most strongly by festive and other special occasions, ranking higher than family needs (27%) or the timing of their sender’s paychecks (18%).
“We understand that diverse populations have equally diverse needs. Festive seasons and special moments are a great example, whereby every year, we see an uptick of approximately 6% in the volume of remittance transactions as these occasions approach,” Farah said. “Western Union offers a broad mix of digital and retail channels to serve the varying payment needs of millions of customers worldwide. We believe that the trust we enjoy with consumers in the UAE and around the world puts us in a unique position to help millions of people bring their best to society.”
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Tech-savvy population seeks choice in the future
As consumers consider how they would like to send and receive money in the future, they value choice above all. Western Union’s study shows that 42% currently send money across borders exclusively through digital channels. However, as they look ahead, 46% want to be able to choose how they send their funds, whether in cash or digitally.
A similar sentiment is echoed among receivers. Forty-three percent currently receive money through digital channels only. In the future, 57% want to be able to choose between digital and retail channels when collecting their funds.
Those who do not use digital channels, say the top barrier preventing them from sending or receiving money online is their preference for face-to-face interaction, followed by trust. Process or customer experience is also another commonly cited barrier.
Farah concluded, “Findings from the research show that while most consumers can be considered digital-first, many ultimately want to able to choose between digital and retail options, based on their convenience and needs. However, being able to trust in online services is critical, and as an industry, we have work to do helping consumers overcome their concerns. Ultimately, our end goal will always be to ensure that we can support even more people’s financial needs, wherever they are geographically, culturally or economically.”
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