In this interview with Finnovista, the General Director for Latin America of the cloud banking SaaS platform Mambu, highlights the opportunity that the situation caused throughout the region by the coronavirus pandemic represents for banks operating in Latin America and for startups, since in his opinion, banks “trust in collaborative innovation” and are aware they must accelerate their digitalization process.
Edgardo Torres-Caballero has been leading Mambu, the Software as a Service that offers agility and flexibility in an affordable way allowing innovative banking providers to create, launch and service loan and deposit products quickly, for the last three years. In a time of change like the present, Edgardo discusses how startups and financial institutions can benefit most from the “new normal”.
Because Mambu allows our customers to go to market faster and to react to changes quicker. We are a cloud-based core banking solution that is scalable for disruptive projects or digital deployments in traditional banks that are aware of the need to transform sooner rather than later to meet evolving digital demands.
The great differences of our platform, undoubtedly, are the agility and evolution. In a highly regulated market like banking, Mambu agility and constant evolution makes it possible for banks to adapt quickly to legal requirements, but also to changes in society’s behaviour and habits.
Through our open platform and its APIs, both startups and banks can flexibly connect their services with others in our marketplace to gain agility in the implementation of projects, which last 3 or 4 months and not 1 or 2 years as was usual for them.
We work with Fintech as business partners or as clients. In both cases, Mambu is an agile and flexible platform that allows them to evolve.
For example, to mention two partners in Mexico, we have Bajaware, a leading company in integral solutions for regulatory compliance in the financial sector, or Kiban, which have a technological product that can be complemented with Mambu and give them agility to connect and assemble a composite architecture. In the case of the final client, we have the startup Kueski, which offers immediate personal loans, has been growing exponentially in the Mexican market and our platform is flexible and evolves with the startup.
Over the last few years, we have been seeing the rise in maturity of financial institutions that have been gradually adopting the digitalization of their service offerings, partly because technology has been innovating and allowing them to be much more effective because customers were already asking for easier interaction and transactions from a mobile phone.
Startups such as Naranja X or NuBank were born with this agility because they are digital and undoubtedly establish the pattern of competitiveness to banks and industry in general, to continue improving. Competition makes a sector more dynamic and creative.
In general we see a strong ecosystems built already in Latin America, like Mexico and Brazil that concentrate the largest amount of Fintechs, but Colombia and Argentina are also remarkable. They have a portfolio of companies with very interesting solutions.
Although countries like the United Kingdom were at the forefront of open banking initiatives, in the 3 years that I have been at Mambu, almost all countries in the region have welcomed it as well and have exponentially expanded investment in that area and in digitalization, even more than they have done in the United States, for example, which is 5 years behind Europe or Latin America.
The region is not in a phase of adoption, but of expansion of financial digitalization.
Not at all. The diversity and competition is very positive in this sector, both for the banks and for Fintech startups themselves.
The biggest banks in Latin America consider Fintechs as an ally in their digitalization process. They do not see them as a competitor and that is a very positive message. They are partners and agents of change. And this good image of Fintechs among banks is shown by the investments we are seeing even in these moments of uncertainty.
From Mambu we are seeing an expansion of digital projects and an acceleration of them. Digitalization is a process that most Latin American banks have already been working on, but without a doubt the pandemic has brought back to the table the urgent need to digitize in order to contribute to the social distancing measures imposed by the authorities.
This is leading to transformational change. Since society knows that digital solutions are safe and effective, it is difficult to go back to another scheme and that is what is happening. For example, in Chile, figures show that more than three million people have been digitalized in the last three months, or in Argentina, Fintech Ualá has claimed to have issued more than 180,000 cards since the beginning of the quarantine, having expanded its product beyond the typical customer profile it had before.
Now we see people in their 40s or 50s, even in their 70s, who are seeing the benefits of being able to operate their finances digitally and who are again urging the actors in the ecosystem to continue to innovate together.
One of the main features of Mambu is to put the customer at the centre. At the beginning of the year, the market was more focused on the millennials, on how they use technology and banking services. Now it’s not just that generation, but all the generations that are relevant to digitization.
What we can learn from this situation is that the customers’ habits are in continuous change.They always want better services, and that is why our clients have with Mambu the possibility to change as their customers change, offering them flexible products and services.
You don’t learn anything when everything is going well. I believe that by balancing the good and the bad of a crisis, there will be more added value in this sector and we will all come out stronger.
For example, I see opportunities in the accelerated adoption of the digitalization of financial service offerings. Institutions with more solid capital are going to come out stronger too and I think we are going to see a lot of movement of acquisitions and mergers by institutions and startups, which positively validates their offer and the need for it.
Another positive side effect of this situation is banking expansion, which, being digital, is faster, more accessible and has less bureaucratic procedures.
These have more to do with the aspect of economic instability, inflation or the use of cash, which in countries like Mexico is too entrenched, among others. In other words, the challenges are more structural but, in terms of changing consumer habits, the acceleration of digitalization by banks and the regulation that is taking place in different countries of the region are mitigating these structural challenges to some extent.
These are times to join forces, which is why the big banks in the region believe in collaboration and see Fintech as an ally. We must take advantage of everyone’s capabilities to see how we evolve in the ecosystem to provide solutions to current needs, so events like FINNOSUMMIT encourage conversation and collaboration so that we all come out stronger.