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BBVA is calling for more innovation in Colombia

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President of BBVA Colombia is calling the government to accelerate the digital transformation of the banking industry in the country.

Óscar Cabrera is concerned about the fact that less than 10% of internet users and 40% of medium and large companies use electronic tools to access banking.

The Colombian government has no clear digital agenda yet. According to him, the digital transformation of the country should be a top priority:

“The new government must provide a clear agenda to encourage more digital behavior among the population, and facilitate the rise of new entrants with disruptive business models”.

Cabrera Izquierdo acknowledged the key role played by the financial industry in driving the country toward a more digitally-oriented economy.

“We are aware that the financial sector is called to generate this change. At BBVA, we are convinced that change will promote competition to ultimately better serve the end consumers”.

Studies show that in Colombia: 90% of the transactions are still made in cash, only 7% with a debit card and 2% with a credit card. He continued by saying:

“Despite the fact that 96% of households have a mobile phone and 90% of companies have Internet access, less than 10% of internet users and 40% of medium and large companies use electronic banking”.

BBVA has long been involved in stimulating digital entrepreneurship across the world. The Open Talent for example, is a yearly initiative to scout and develop new business models, to which Colombia is the first country in terms of participating startups in Latin America.


 

The MIT eyes on the Argentine Fintech ecosystem

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Last May 29th in Buenos Aires took place “Transforming the Fintech Revolution”, a one day event organized by MIT Sloan Latin America Office and IDEA that brought together academics, entrepreneurs and members of the financial industry to discuss the growing impact of technology in the sector.

The kickoff was given by Christian Catalini, Professor of Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management at MIT Sloan, who analyzed blockchain and the economic effects it has on society, focusing on the new business models that can be built from the cryptoactive. According to him, this represents both an opportunity and a threat to established intermediaries.

One of the most expected talk was the one of Silvio Micali, Professor and Member of the Laboratory of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence of the university, and an expert in cryptography awarded in 2012 with the Turing Prize.

He exposes the benefits of Algorand, a decentralized and scalable platform for assets, currencies, and digital transactions that works as an alternative to blockchain. For each transaction block, Algorand randomly selects a small and unique group of users to verify them. To protect this group of attacks, the identity of the users remains hidden until the verifications end. This results in a consensus protocol, both computational and energetically efficient, since it avoids the resolution of “cryptographic puzzles” that miners of the blockchain have to do, and also allows its application even in low-value transactions.

Roberto Rigobon, Professor of management of MIT Sloan, moderated the panel and described the “fintech revolution” with a macroeconomic perspective. One of his focus was made around financial inclusion:

“20% of the world GDP participates in the formal financial system and there are more than 2,000 million people who do not have access to banking, spend on average the 10% of your income in transaction costs.”

Roberto Rigobon, Profesor ar MIT Sloan. Credits: IDEA

Other panelists included: John Williams, Professor of systems engineering at MIT, on the importance of cybersecurity in a digitalized society; Roberto Frossard, of Accenture, on the applications of artificial intelligence nowadays; Tavneet Suri, Professor of applied economics at MIT, on digital finance and economic life in Africa; Chester Spatt, MIT Professor and former Chief Economist of the SEC, on the regulatory issues and challenges of financial digitization; Lucas Llach, Vice President of the BCRA, who spoke about the digitalization strategy that the entity is carrying out together with the local ecosystem; Sebastián Serrano, CEO of Ripio, on the role of his company in the democratization of access to the digital economy in Latin America.

One of the points that stood out was the almost direct analogy between fintech and decentralized consensus systems, such as blockchain or Algorand.

In other words, the revolution posed by cryptographic applications in finance undoubtedly occupies the number one position in the considerations of those who investigate in this field. It will maybe not bitcoin, blockchain or even Algorand, but all agreed to see that the scenario has been changing drastically – and in such a short period of time – with this revolution still very incipient.


 

11 Latin American FinTech companies to watch

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Latin America is mostly early-stage territory when it comes to financial technology. With a growing population of approximately 640 million, this group of countries offers much potential, notably in the online lending space.

I have compiled a list of eleven companies that are aiming to challenge the status quo within the region.

Afluenta (Argentina)

Afluenta is a marketplace lending company for consumer and SME loans. Based in Buenos Aires, it is currently serving the Argentinian, Mexican, Colombian and Peruvian markets. Within the network, borrowers can access loans at competitive rates, while investors potentially enjoy high net yield for their funding. So far, Afluenta has raised $13M (series B).

Alegra (Colombia)

Alegra is a billing, administration and accounting software for SMEs. It serves a number of Latin American countries as well as Spain. Interestingly, there is US version that is catering to the local Spanish speaking population.

Facturado (Chile)

Facturado is the first online platform for buying and selling invoices in Chile. The company claims users can receive an advance in less than 48 hours.

Geru (Brazil)

Based in São Paulo, Geru is a user-friendly online lending platform that connects borrowers and investors. It offers loans ranging from R$ 2,000 to R$ 50,000 in 12 to 36 months terms. This year, the startup launched Brazil’s first fully digital payroll loan product. Geru developed its own credit score model using unstructured data.

Gestor (Ecuador)

Established in 1997, Gestor conceives software dedicated to investment funds, (including trust, and pension funds) as well as securitization, portfolio management, brokerage, wealth / asset management and ETFs.

Konfio (Mexico)

Konfío is an online lending platform targeting Mexican SMEs which uses data for fast credit assessment. Thus far, the startup has raised $18.1M (series B).

Kueski (Mexico)

A fast growing startup, Kueski is the self-proclaimed “online lender for the Middle Class of Mexico and Latin America”. The company uses big data and advanced analytics to approve and deliver loans in a prompt manner. So far, Kueski has raised close to $39M.

Moni (Argentina)

Moni is a B2C lending platform based in Argentina offering small loans of up to $ 4,000. It is known to be mobile and user friendly.

Nubank (Brazil)

Nubank is perhaps the biggest success story within the LATAM fintech ecosystem in recent times. Best known for its no-fee purple credit card, Nubank launched digital bank accounts in October 2017 as part of a plan to offer a broader range of financial products, achieving an impressive 1.5 million client base (for that specific product). The company has already raised an impressive $527.6M (series E).

PagoFlash (Venezuela)

With Venezuela facing a rather dire economic situation, PagoFlash aims to make payment processing easier for local companies. The platform offers three modules:

  • PagoFlash: “Send payment links to your customers through social networks, WhatsApp and email campaigns with our payment methods”.
  • PagoMail: “Send payment requests to your customers through email without the need of a web page”.
  • PagoShop: “Receive payments from your website with our integrated payment button and facilitate the management of your electronic commerce”.

Seguro Simple (Peru)

Seguro Simple is a Lima-based insurtech platform serving the Peruvian and Mexican markets. Its primary service is a car insurance comparator and marketplace. Users can also purchase home, life and health insurance policies.

Fintech in Latin America is definitely growing and worth paying attention. Expect a substantial number of new entrants in the coming years.


This article was first published on Phil Siarri’s blog Nuadox

FinTech Regulatory Environment in Colombia

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After a 61% growth last year, Colombia currently has the third biggest Fintech Industry in South America. Surprisingly, despite this growth, the country has no clear Fintech regulation.

The Colombian government first tried to regulate crowdfunding platforms last year, but FinTech start-ups did not agree on the terms and conditions that were offered.

Having failed to find an arrangement with the regulators, Colombian FinTech companies decided to autoregulate with their own ethical responsibility code, created by the Colombian Association of Technology and Innovation Companies.

However, the inexistence of a Fintech regulatory environment does not mean there is not applicable law to Fintech companies. The Colombian legal system still applies to any company that must comply with the Financial Protection Regimen, the Financial Habeas Data and Data Protection dispositions, Colombia’s Tax Regulation for digital industries, or Colombia’s Administration System for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (SARLFT).

Finance regulation

Among other legal entities, Colombia’s Organic Statute of the Financial System must be observed by any company that provides financial services. That means Fintech companies must fulfill the obligations stated by the general financial regulation, supervised by Colombia’s Financial Superintendence.

Whether it is online banking, digital stock markets or online collective financing, FinTech need an authorization from the Financial Superintendence in order to capture any inflow of money. The legal representative of the company could face up to 240 months of prison if not compliant.

The Financial Protection Regimen

The dispositions found in Act 1328 issued in 2009, establish that companies which provide special financial services (such as FinTech) must act with due diligence transparency and providing information that is true, sufficient and is presented on time, respect the freedom of choice, handle properly any conflict of interests, and provide appropriate education for the financial consumer.

The same law habilitates the government to intervene in order to make sure the companies are properly complying and respecting the financial consumer’s rights.

Financial Habeas Data and Data Protection

The Superintendence of Industry and Commerce is the competent entity to sanction the breach of Colombia’s Data Protection legislation.

The financial habeas data is breached by: a) Reporting to credit risk entities, information that does not correspond with reality; b) Not updating on time the information related with the fulfilment of obligations of the users; c) Not communicating to the user that he will be reported to a credit risk entity and therefore refusing the possibility of paying before he gets reported.

Fintech companies must also design a data protection protocol that guarantees the users’ rights according to Colombia’s general data protection legislation: not using the information of their users without their authorization, not exposing someone’s data to security breaches, or protecting the platform against loss or robbery of the information stored in their databases.

The tax regulation for FinTech companies

Colombia’s legislation has adopted rules FinTech companies may be legally incorporated in one jurisdiction, but they may still do business in Colombia and obtain income from Colombian source, and pay taxes in Colombia.

The challenge is to keep up with the challenges of the digital economy: determining if there is in effect Colombian sourced income or not, and if the digital platform, even if operating abroad, should be considered a permanent establishment in Colombia.

SARLAFT

Colombia’s Administration System for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism has established the need for the creation of a special protocol in each company based on the prevention of risk and eradication of the insertion of shady money to the country’s financial system.

As agents of the financial system, FinTech companies must be able to inform where the money comes from and where it goes.

FinTech companies that are looking to run a business in Colombia won’t find a standard regulation, but at the same time they won’t face any legal difficulties as long as they are able to identify all of the applicable dispositions mentioned before.


 

What you should know about the Iberoamerican FinTech Alliance

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The Iberoamerican Fintech Alliance was created few days ago with the objective of tackling the challenges of regulation, talent, innovation and inclusion in the FinTech industry on both sides of the Ocean.

LATAM is home to more than 1,500 Fintech operations, mainly working to promote financial inclusion with the so-called Neobanks, Microcredit insitutions or Payment solutions among others.

The Iberoamerican Fintech Alliance is an initiative that was first brought by the Spanish Association of FinTech and InsurTech (AEFI), and is the largest FinTech initiative made on a global scale with 20 countries involved.

As explained by Rodrigo García de la Cruz, President of the Iberoamerican Fintech Alliance:

“AEFI has always considered that part of the DNA of FinTech is to see beyond the frontiers. Spain has demonstrated strong support, always driving the financial sector to build bridges between Latin America and Europe”.

The Iberoamerican Fintech Alliance was established on two pillars: knowledge and collaboration. This to promote entrepreneurship, competitiveness and financial inclusion through ever changing regulation.

Some of the best achievements made by the Alliance since its launch in 2017 include: a FinTech International Regulation Committee, the release of two white FinTech regulation books, a Code of Good Governance and a Code of Ethics to promote good practices in the industry.

According to the spanish bank BBVA:

“The entry of new FinTech players is a great opportunity for success, since they can jointly offer a great value proposition to our customers. BBVA has also a growing role to play in the innovation game.”

In such environment, the city of Madrid has always shown a strong support to the AEFI, understanding that Spain can become a financial hub.


 

IFC launches DigiLab to promote financial inclusion in LATAM

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A portrait of Rosa Gutierrez, dairy farmer visits neighbors of hers in Suesca Town, Colombia on March 29, 2017. Photo © Dominic Chavez/International Finance Corporation

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) announced the launch of DigiLab, a tech laboratory to help financial institutions with emerging technologies and promote financial inclusion in the region.

According to Liliana Pozo, Head of Financial Institutions for Latin America at IFC:

“We want to teach FIs a digital methodology with a focus on the user that will ultimately let them deliver better products and services, and reach segments that are not being served. We want to improve financial inclusion through the digitization of Latin American banks, “says Pozo.

According to IFC, which will first select five banks to join the program, the end objective is to facilitate the use of key technologies in areas like data analytics, big data or cloud computing, with a focus on mobile financial services. IFC also intend to onboard other players like fintech start-ups, and extend to other sectors like green financing.

According to recent studies published by GSMA, by 2025, 66% of people in Latin America will have access to internet through their mobile phones. Studies also show that 84% of digital transformation plan fail because of unadequate support.


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