As the year quickly winds down, I can’t help but to reflect on the rapid development and advancement of the Fintech sector in Latin America in 2017. Thus far, it has been an exciting year for Fintech in Latin America with acquisitions, investments, accelerators, new Fintech regulations and so much more happening in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Brazil and beyond.
It seems like only yesterday that we first heard details about BBVA’s acquisition of Openpay in Mexico, and yet 10 months have already passed and the integration looks like it is all systems go, with a recent sighting of an Openpay founder in a LATAM airport with BBVA execs.
- It was January when we first heard about General Atlantic’s US$24 million investment in Mexico payment’s startup, Clip.
- February brought us news of Creditas’ (formerly Bankfacil) US$19 million fundraise with IFC, Naspers and Redpoint eventures participating in the deal.
- March saw the official launch of Startupbootcamp FinTech Mexico City, a first of its kind Fintech accelerator program for Latin America backed first by Visa, Banregio, Fiinlab, EY and White & Case, and later joined by HSBC and Ignia.
- In April, LAVCA announced that Fintech Dominates Latin America VC Investments for 2016 in the region.
- In May, the IADB and Finnovista published a report detailing maturity and development of the Fintech ecosystem in Latin America, Fintech: Innovations You May Not Know were from Latin America and the Caribbean.
- June saw the publication of a Financial Times article forecasting Fintechs could take 30% of Mexican banking market.
- In July, Ignia announced their investment in regional P2P lending marketplace Afluenta.
- August saw the formal establishment of Argentina’s Fintech Association, in what is expected to be a precursor to a proposal for a formal Fintech regulation, following a trend in Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Central America and so many more countries and regions across the continent.
- In September we learned that Insurtech startup ComparaMejor from Colombia had secured a US$10 million Series A investment.
- In October we expect to finally see Congressional approval of the Mexican Fintech Law.
The past two months, in particular, have been eye-opening as we have been able to spend time with Fintech entrepreneurs and investors in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Bogota and Sao Paulo as part of Finnovista’s collaboration with Visa’s Everywhere Initiative. During this time, I’ve been able to:
- see 50 early stage Fintechs from across the region pitch their business plans to local Fintech communities;
- meet with more than 25 later stage startups to hear about their experiences transforming the financial services industry in their home markets; and
- hear local and regional Fintech investors share their vision on the Fintech opportunity in the region
It has become even clearer that the opportunity for Fintechs exists across the region, and the problems they are solving are consistent across borders, financial inclusion being a common denominator across Latin America. However, the challenge becomes even greater from country to country as startups must endure different regulatory frameworks and varying degrees of startup ecosystem development.
In my conversations with startups across the region, entrepreneurs concurred that regulation played a determining role in their ability to launch and grow their businesses. However, they varied in their opinions when asked about access to capital, talent, and appetite for collaboration amongst the incumbent industry players. My main take away is that one size does not fit all in the Latin American Fintech sector and what applies to one market or vertical within the Fintech sector, does not necessarily apply to others.
With FINNOSUMMIT Miami coming up on November 9th, I’m looking forward to hearing Fintech practitioners, innovation experts and financial service executives from across the region and around the globe share their vision, experience and war stories about how technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation are transforming and disrupting the financial services industry and how all this can apply to Latin America. Furthermore, I’m excited to hear about the opportunities that exist in Latin America for technology-driven startups to disrupt the industry. To this point, the event will be hosting the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative, with the 10 most disruptive, early-stage startups pitching and competing for the grand prize.
Hope to see you in Miami!
Andres Fontao is Co-founder and Managing Partner of Finnovista, where he has pioneered fintech events, startup competitions and bank-sponsored open innovation programs throughout Europe and Latin America under different brands, including Next Bank, Innotribe and BBVA Open Talent brands. Prior to starting finnovista, Andres spent time with a Silicon Valley-based fintech start-up leading expansion into Europe and LATAM. Before that, he was head of mobile banking at Bankinter. Andres has also worked as a consultant to mobile operators in Europe and Mexico. Andres holds a BA from Middlebury College in Vermont (USA) and MBA from IE Business School in Madrid.