Heart of the Union

Millions of people transfer money through Western Union every day. Its chief communications officer, Luella Chavez D’Angelo, is driven by her desire to help improve each one of their lives

Western Union has a story to tell that most people don’t know. Formerly the best-known US company in the business of exchanging telegrams, it is now known primarily for money transfer services. Facilitating more than a million transfers every day, its mission of being the global leader in cross-border transfers is helping grow small businesses, encourage education, and foster family prosperity. For every transaction, there is a sender and a receiver. Whether it’s a customer moving money to family members in another country, a business looking for solutions to pay invoices in different currencies, or a nongovernmental organization trying to get money into the hands of those who need it most after a disaster, each has its own story. As Western Union’s chief communications officer (CCO), Luella Chavez D’Angelo is passionate about telling these stories. “We are a for-profit business that has a social mission in mind,” says Chavez D’Angelo.

While serving the shareholders and watching the bottom line are priorities, as the value of Western Union’s stock increases, so does the company’s value to society.

Working in a way that feels meaningful is a way of life for most Western Union employees. CEO Hikmet Ersek paves the way for his employees to do business with their hearts, encouraging employees to have a higher focus by remembering that so much of what they do is done with the objective of making people’s lives easier. This focus is played out in the Western Union Foundation, where billions of dollars have helped education and small-business causes on every continent.

“We have really good people, and I get out of their way so they can do their jobs. I watch almost every move they make, but I don’t try to control every move they make. I need to help them remove the barriers that they might be facing along the way. If they’re trying to do something they’ve never done before, I want to pave the road for them.”

Chavez D’Angelo, who helped start the foundation, calls it the proof point of Western Union. In the year 2000, she was appointed the inaugural director of the First Data Western Union Foundation. During her tenure as Western Union Foundation president, the organization has offered support to more than 2,500 nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations in 130 countries. The foundation demonstrates the ways in which the company leads by example, supporting people of all backgrounds moving forward and bettering their lives.

Chavez D’Angelo also enjoys her role as a strategic advisor to the C-suite, business unit executives, and external stakeholder groups. She believes that driving relationship- and expert-based value is critical to operations. Because Western Union transfers more than 120 currencies across 200 countries and territories, its executives have to be experts in money, the foreign exchange market, and relationships with clients. “Customer centricity is at the heart of everything we do,” Chavez D’Angelo says.

The CCO’s background makes her uniquely qualified for her position. With one set of grandparents who emigrated from Spain and another from Mexico, she felt the impact of diversity throughout her childhood. She also understood the importance of education and hard work, thanks to her parents who were both educators—her father was an art teacher and her mother was an elementary school teacher who went on to get a doctorate and become a professor.

Having grown up in immigrant communities, they taught their daughter the importance and the value of diversity. Chavez D’Angelo feels that Western Union is a natural fit for her because its values align with hers. Offering services that are used globally, it is natural for Western Union to embrace diversity internally.

“Our leadership is like a mini United Nations,” says Chavez D’Angelo. “There are people from all over the world who can contribute fascinating insight about their unique cultures. I find it exciting every day to be a part of that.”

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