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Gabriel Santos

COLOMBIA - Finance

Gabriel Santos

Colombia Fintech, Colombia Fintech

Bio

Prior to becoming the President of Colombia Fintech, Gabriel Santos Garcia served as a representative to the Chamber for Bogotá and during his time in the Congress of the Republic he focused on strengthening financial inclusion. This entailed promoting the benefits of disruptive models across different areas of public policy, including the fintech sector, as well as the implementation of blockchain technology to reach higher levels of transparency.

"Colombia’s fintech industry is third in the region."
Colombia Fintech’s mission is to provide clear information on the sector and promote the betterment of Colombia by investing in small fintech companies.
What is the mission and vision of Colombia Fintech?

We strive to create a consistent place to provide clear-cut regulations for our members, intervene on their behalf when they are being treated unfairly by regulators, and promote business opportunities. We have specific goals regarding how we handle information in the ecosystem; we want to provide accurate information to educators and the government. We want to have the top talent in the region and excellent relationships with investors. We promote the ecosystem the best way possible. When we were founded four and half years ago, we were a commercially oriented association. We have since evolved to be more active from a public standpoint and with an international agenda.

What are the strengths of the sector in Colombia, and how would you compare it to the rest of Latin America?

Colombia had strong traditional financial institutions six years ago that were not necessarily creating products for the most underserved. There were many people unable to receive affordable financial products. Fintechs saw an opportunity here, and we started seeing innovation with cheaper products that took difficult economic situations and gender and regional disparities into account. Traditional institutions did not view them as key consumers, so there was a huge business opportunity. We also had competitive regulations promoted by the last two governments that encouraged international investment and made the country competitive. We invested heavily in developing programmers, so we had well-trained talent available for fintechs.

Many fintechs are looking at financial inclusion while others are focused on volume. What do you see as the endgame for the fintech sector in Colombia?

The beauty of the business is that there are two ways of earning profits. There is Rappi Pay, which has a massive database to profit from, and it can do business with the middle and upper classes and be a relevant fintech for years to come. There are also the more outside-the-box fintechs that provide the underserved with access to credit, which is a key issue from a societal standpoint. They conduct business with those who work in the informal sector and provide them with access to credit and ease of payment as well as with small businesses to provide them with access to non-financial credit. This is also a profitable business model for the future.

How much interaction do you have with public entities, and are you in conversation with public- and private-sector institutions?

We are a 100% private entity but work hand in hand with the public sector. We work closely with the government to provide it with key information, so it knows if it is meeting its financial inclusion goals. Most fintechs only work on their economic models. We work together with the government and do research with public banking institutions so they can channel their welfare checks and credit dispersal systems through our fintechs. We have lighter infrastructure, which means we can go where traditional banking institutions cannot. Being a private entity means we have to work with government institutions daily to help them get money to underserved people from a public standpoint while also making their processes cheaper and more efficient.

What is your message to international investors regarding fintech in Colombia?

Colombia’s fintech industry is third in the region. We have been able to harness huge knowledge and talent from the larger start-ups like Rappi and others so that smaller businesses and fintechs have been able to compete. We have extremely knowledgeable supervisors that have been able to quickly develop regulations that allow fintechs to grow into what they are supposed to be. We have a large market share that has not been accounted for, and business will continue to grow. You can invest in small companies and expect them to grow exponentially. There is a great deal of money to be made on models that will have huge social implications for the betterment of the country.

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