After an eight hour journey with a stop in Dallas, I arrived early Monday morning (Dec 2nd, 2019) in Miami, a city with many faces. I sprung up early next morning and walked straight into Keynote sessions at the FinnoSummit by LendIt Fintech.
As many of you guys already know, I am a fan of Fintech and have been to just about every LendIt event here in the U.S. and abroad. However this conference is different, it first of its kind hosted by LendIt Fintech focusing on Latin America (Latam).
There are over 400 million people living in South America with mega countries such as Brazil with over 200 million citizens, São Paulo, the most populous city in Brazil has over 21 million people. The sheer size of the opportunity in Latin America is unimaginable and Fintech is just beginning to make inroads less than a decade ago.
Clip, hailed from Mexico City is one of those payment startups that’s blazing the trails in Latin America to completely revamp how we think about payments.
Clip’s CEO Adolfo Babatz said that we are at the age of mobile and the hardware of the stone age such as point of sales systems are dying. Small and medium-size businesses are beholden to this old hardware, payment rails and the expenses that is necessary to maintain these systems.
Mobile payment systems are the wave of the future. Leveraging the mobile network, merchants and consumers can easily transact to sell more product and services.
Adolfo also made a dire prediction of usage of cash, which is a repeated theme from many Fintech founders throughout the conference. Cash won’t die anytime soon, there’s an inherent trust factor still embedded into cold hard cash. However, these new payment firms such as Clip are providing modern user experiences to make mobile payment transactions as easy and trustworthy as possible.
Adolfo predicted that the plastic, mobile, virtual “highways” along with cash “highway” will take consumers to different destinations, that is to say, there are a variety of usage models for how value is transferred from one hand to another. But the biggest loser over time will be cash.
Here are some statistics from Adolfo: Visa and Mastercard volume is doubling every year, taking away cash usages, Latin America is following the same trend as India where adoption of mobile payment systems is trending at a breakneck speed.
However, there are still challenges in Latin America. Know Your Customer (KYC) is still a huge challenge. Identity verification is still a struggle. This speaks to the lack of infrastructure such as credit bureaus, open banking systems or even government regulations.
The Mexican Fintech legislation was finally ratified but eventual law was a far cry from the initial vision. Adolfo didn’t hold back about his feelings towards the approved Fintech regulation. He jokingly compared the regulation to a camel, a horse made by committee.
The Fintech regulation became an aberration of the existing banking law that does not promote innovation and competition a far leap from its original purpose.
The good news is that there is a lot of money pouring into Latin America. Whereas 7 years ago, Fintech startups couldn’t find funding but now with money coming from Softbank and other big and small venture capitalists, there is a ton of risk capital flowing into the region and trying to find the next best deal.
A word of caution: deal demand is driving inflation of valuation. Fintech is hot in Latam and there is a lot of money trying to get in.
Timothy Li is a Senior Contributor for Crowdfund Insider. Li is the Founder of Kuber, MaxDecisions, an Alchemy. Li has over 15 years of Fintech industry experience. He’s passionate about changing the finance and banking landscape. Kuber launched Fluid, a credit building product designed for college students to borrow up to $500 interest-free. Kuber’s 2nd product Mobilend is a true debt consolidation product, aiming to lower debt for all Americans. MaxDecisions provides financial institutions with the latest A.I. and Machine Learning algorithms and Alchemy is a state of the art end-to-end white-labeled lending platform powering some of the best Fintech companies in the world. Li also teaches at the University of Southern California School of Engineering.