ECONOMY

A high-potential market

When first meeting Christina Gold, president of Western Union Financial Services Inc. and executive vice president of First Data Corp., based in Denver, Colorado, it is difficult to imagine she is one of the 50 most powerful and successful women in the United States. But this affable and smiling woman is indeed in charge of Western Union’s international activities in more than 195 countries and regions of the world, managing 200,000 offices of the company all over the globe. «It is truly a joy for me to work for this company and to simply do my best,» she says. Fortune magazine included Gold in its 2003 list of the «50 most powerful women in American companies.» Before joining Western Union in May 2002, Gold served as president and executive general director of Excel Communications, the telecommunications and electronic commerce company, already having behind her a most rewarding and long career at Avon. Gold visited Greece on the occasion of the inauguration of Western Union’s 200,000th representative office for money transfers, located at Pireos and Geraniou streets, in Omonia Square in central Athens. «Greece is a basic priority in the growth strategy of Western Union and its parent company, First Data Corp. in the next few years, as it’s located at a key point for the further enlargement of our network in the Balkans and in the wider area of Southeastern Europe,» Gold told Kathimerini. She notes that Greece is among the 50 largest of the 195 markets served by the Western Union network. It was within the framework of this strategy that First Data recently acquired 100 percent of the Greek company Delta Singular Outsourcing Services, the transactions management unit of Delta Singular. The acquisition allows First Data to expand its services and boost its presence in Greece, the Middle East and the Balkans. Delta Singular Outsourcing Services has issued more than 1.5 million debit and 2 million credit cards, and manages 1,200 ATMs and more than 12 million transactions annually. «We see significant growth prospects in the Greek card market, our basic projects being the prepaid cards and the so-called loyalty card, which offers a number of special privileges on specific terms. We recently launched the idea of the prepaid card with an agreement with the Starbucks chain in Greece. We now issue the Starbucks Card and we look forward to additional such projects in the near future. This system makes life easier for the customers, it speeds up service and allows us to build long-term trust relationships with them.» Gold said that the notion of trust is even more important after September 11. «We have had to adopt a series of measures for maximum security in transaction. We invested $18.5 million in upgrading technological systems and in staff training, while also upgrading our database so as to have a better profile of our customers.» She notes that although terrorism has created a negative environment for a number of businesses, this does not hold true for Western Union. The number of its transactions increased 19 percent in 2003 and is so far up 20 percent this year. So what is the secret of Western Union’s success? «Its well-recognized brand name, the density of its global network, and its ability to offer fast services through fully transparent and reliable procedures,» says Gold. «It is a privilege for me to work for this company, we are a good team and this helps and supports me. Being a woman is not an obstacle. I love what I do and enjoy the challenges and the competition.»