Latest on fintech sandboxes in Latin America

The fintech industry has been growing in Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years and wants to become an alternative to improve financial inclusion in the region.

Sandboxes in Latin America: The Ibero-American fintech is focused on ending the under-banking gap in the region
Sandboxes in Latin America: The Ibero-American fintech is focused on ending the under-banking gap in the region

Technological innovation in the world of finance is already a reality. Small companies and disruptive startups want to become players in the financial and banking world by providing their products and services. Latin America is no exception.

The so-called 'fintech' (acronym for finance and technology) have grown in number in recent years in the region and are already quantified in 1116 companies and initiatives, with Brazil (380), Mexico (273) and Colombia (148) at the top, according to the report 'Fintech in Latin America 2018: Growth and Consolidation', by the Ibero-American Development Bank (IDB) and Finnovista.

The Ibero-American 'fintech' is focused on ending the under-banking gap in the region, which is estimated at 46% of the adult population. The business models of these initiatives demonstrate payments and remittances, loans and the management of personal finances aimed at individuals and SMEs that cannot access financing through traditional channels.

Faced with the growing weight of fintech companies and the potential they have in the development of the economy, the governments of the region welcome their landing and openly consider opening sandboxes and moving towards financial regulation and supervision of their activities.

Sandboxes in Latin America

It is one of the topics most heard in the corridors of regulators and supervisors and in the offices of large and small firms: how to integrate new players, such as startups and financial technology firms, with traditional firms and move together in collaboration and under a regulatory umbrella.

There is no single answer, not in Europe, Asia or Latin America. But many countries already recognize that it is a necessity and have begun testing processes to learn about the new technologies and services in which they are working. This can be done through sandboxes.

In short, a sandbox is a space set up by a country's regulator and supervisor to create an environment that covers companies (whether startups or traditional financial firms) working on the innovation of a new product or service that does not currently have a specific regulation.

It is intended that in these sandboxes participate in new and disruptive ideas that if they come to market can be a real benefit to consumers. Companies are allowed to experiment with customers in a very specific period of time (between six and 12 months). Subsequently, the supervisor and regulator assess the risks and decide to create a specific regulation or modify the existing one to accommodate the new product.

The largest economies in Latin America have not been left behind, and despite differences in approach and measures taken, they do not hide the fact that the emergence of fintech has changed the banking and financial scenario.

Mexico

Since March 9, 2018, Mexico is one of the first countries in the world, along with the United Kingdom, which has a specific regulation on the performance of 'fintech', the Law Regulating Financial Technology Institutions.

The bill focuses mainly on collective activities ('crowdfunding'), electronic payment platforms and the provision of financial services through technological means and cryptocurrencies.

Colombia

It is the second country, after Mexico, with the most advanced regulatory process. On May 7, 2018, the Superintendency of Finance of Colombia announced the creation of InnovasFC, a study space of Fintech companies that includes three modalities for the development of new companies and their supervision: hub, sandbox, and regtech.

The hub is the first point of contact between Superintendency and fintech companies interested in participating in the sandbox. It is the supervising team that decides if the project meets the eligibility requirements to be tested in the sandbox.

The sandbox serves as a framework through which the Superintendency facilitates product innovation and business models. It serves both supervised and unmonitored companies that will test their services.

The third mechanism, 'regtech', aims to take advantage of the advances that have been made in the sandbox for the Superintendency to evaluate possible changes in regulation.

Argentina

The country has 116 registered fintech companies and since 2016 the Central Bank of Argentina (BCRA) has created a space for work and dialogue between fintech, banks and other financial institutions. This space, called the Financial Innovation Roundtable, works in three areas:

Means and Payment Infrastructure (MIP)

Transversal Technologies and Systems (TST)

Alternative Credit and Savings Channels (CALs)

The activity promoted by the BCRA is not a sandbox, but rather a 'device facilitating innovation'. Since 2017, BCRA has also been running an accelerator called the Financial Innovation Hackathon.

Brazil

It is the country with more financial technology initiatives in the region and grew more than 200% between 2016 and 2018, according to data from the Comissão de Valores Mobiliarios (CVM), but does not yet have regulation or firm work team.

There is an intersectoral discussion forum that brings together the Brazilian Development Association (ABDE), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the CVM in which enterprises in the fintech sector, green finance and financial instruments and impact investments participate.

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Fintech regulation in Latin American markets

A fintech scan of the Latin American region reveals that the six countries that concentrate the Fintech are Brazil (33%), Mexico (23%), Colombia (13%), Argentina (10%), Chile (7%) and Peru (5%).

"From the list, Chile is the most backward country in terms of regulation," says the executive director of the FinteChile association, Ángel Sierra.
"From the list, Chile is the most backward country in terms of regulation," says the executive director of the FinteChile association, Ángel Sierra.

Of these six, only Mexico has a regulation for crowdfunding platforms, cryptocurrencies, and payment transactions. The rest of the nations are in the process of regulation or have only regulated some aspects.

Fintech regulation in Chile

In mid-February, the CMF released its white paper, which establishes the basic guidelines for regulating crowdfunding and related services in the country. Although this is a step forward for the sector, among the neighboring countries that concentrate the Fintech have already taken this step one or more years ago.

Sierra believes that the backwardness of Chile in the matter is not necessarily a bad thing, because if the country rapidly capitalizes the regulatory weaknesses and the implementation that there was in other nations, one can still dream of seeing Chile as the future financial center of the region. But, he adds that it is necessary to establish a regulation soon on the matter since "talking about a financial ecosystem of the 21st century without Fintech is difficult," he says.

However, from the Ministry of Finance said that this year is not in their plans to see the issue until the first half of 2020 since the priority for 2019 is the Tax Reform.

Fintech regulation in Mexico

Following the example of leaders in Fintech regulation at the global level, England and Singapore, Mexico opted to take the regional leadership and a year ago it passed its FinTech law, where it supervises collective financing companies, electronic payments, and virtual assets. Thus, Mexicans lead the region with fintech law.

"The regulation of Mexico is integral, it is very important to highlight it because there are countries that say they have a fintech law when only crowdfunding was regulated", highlights the executive director of FinteChile.

The legislation of the Mexican country indicates the requirements that each Financial Technology Institution (ITF) must follow to request authorization to operate, tighten the rules for the operation of electronic payment funds, as well as a series of measures to prevent money laundering. money and financing of terrorism by digital financial platforms.

Cumplo, the largest crowdfunding platform in Chile, operates its business in Chile and Mexico, two very different regulatory scenarios.

"When there are clarity and certainty, a company advances much faster," says Nicolás Shea, the partner at Cumplo.

Fintech regulation in Colombia

The financial regulator already supervises the Fintech in Colombia and has created specialized companies in electronic deposits and payments (SEDPEs), through which these fintechs can operate.

On the other hand, crowdfunding is regulated and is recognized as an activity of the stock market that can be developed by all those entities supervised by the Financial Superintendence of Colombia (SFC).

In addition, the government authorizes financial institutions to hold shares or quotas in national or international companies, whose exclusive purpose is to develop and/or apply innovations and technologies related to the development of the corporate purpose of financial investment entities.

Fintech regulation in Argentina

A year ago, Argentina approved the regulations that regulate crowdfunding companies through the creation of the Collective Funding Platform (PFC), linked to a company previously authorized and registered in the Securities Commission of the country (CMV ).

Today, the Argentina Fintech Chamber (CAF) is working with the Argentine Central Bank, through four working groups: media and payment infrastructures, technology and transversal systems, alternative savings channels, and blockchain.

"There is a real and very favorable predisposition on the part of the authorities to the development of FinTech services," says CAF president Juan Pablo Bruzzo.

Fintech regulation in Peru

The Peruvian scenario is slightly more advanced than the Chilean one but still steps away from approving crowdfunding. In October of last year, the Superintendency of Market Values (SVM) of the country presented the Executive with a bill that seeks to regulate crowdfunding platforms.

"We aim for this semester to have at least the bill introduced in the Congress," says the president of the Fintech Peru Association, Óscar Salas.

And he adds that although Chile and Peru are at similar levels, everything will depend on who is delayed less in the processing of the project. Currently, the guild conducts working groups with the regulator around currency exchange platforms and means of payment.

Fintech regulation in Brazil

The Brazilian government regulates Direct Credit Companies (SCD) that operate as financial institutions whose purpose is to carry out loan operations, financing and acquisition of credit rights always using their own capital, and to the Inter-Person Loan Companies (SEP), financial entities which are aimed at intermediation, financing and loans between people, better known as Peer to Peer Lending. Thus, the country advances in open banking regulation.

The legislation establishes that SCDs and SEPs can provide services such as the issuance of electronic currency and the collection of credits. Both figures must operate exclusively on electronic platforms, be constituted as corporations, in addition to having permanently paid-in capital and a minimum net worth.

Unlike Mexico, Brazil has not regulated or recognized cryptocurrencies as a virtual asset.

One of the main trends for 2019 is that of Open Banking. In this area, the Central Bank expects to enact regulations so that bank data under the power of financial institutions are available for processing and use by fintech.