The Innovators 2021: Latin America

Covid-19 caused banks to sprint to digitalization, but the transformational journey is long and ongoing.

Although banking had already been transforming digitally for years, the pandemic in 2020 accelerated digital adoption worldwide, and in particular across Latin America, which sports a robust and fast-growing fintech sector. Banks have played no small part in meeting the intensified need for contactless solutions.

Banco de la Producción (Produbanco), Latin America’s Outstanding Financial Innovator 2021, accelerated its digital transformation during the pandemic to keep its services 100% available to its customers while improving the experience in its various service channels. The bank developed new digital products and services and implemented improvements in main transactions, such as transfers, card payments and service payments on its existing platforms.

“This is how, at Produbanco, there was evidence of great transactional growth in digital channels, accompanied by the development of new digital products and services to respond to the needs of our customers in this new normal,” states Ricardo Cuesta, CEO of Produbanco.

In the midst of the pandemic, Produbanco launched PayPhone 3.0—a payment app that provides for digital collections and payments,without  barring any physical contact with a person or business.

PayPhone 3.0 incorporates the option of collection and payment from the same user accounts, letting them receive or send money from their Visa or Mastercard credit or debit cards issued by any bank. It’s also a digital wallet—allowing smartphone-to-smartphone money transfers—effectively allowing anyone to set up as a business.

Produbanco has been supporting PayPhone since it was a tiny fintech, but formed a partnership in 2020, making it part of the Promerica Group.

Other Produbanco innovations include a new way of saving, through a digital tool that recommends the ideal type of contribution according to each user’s financial situation, even establishing incremental savings options. It also offers My Consumption, which lets users read and analyze Garmin Pay, Fitbit Pay and Promerica Pay digital wallets, which Produbanco added to its product portfolio. At the end of 2020, the bank deployed a WhatsApp Business channel for users to make inquiries and requests, obtain information on the location of agencies and ATMs, learn about products and services and chat with bank executives.

Latin America’s Crisis Finance Innovations 2021 winner is Panama’s Banistmo for its digital-only arm Nequi and its partnering approach.

“To Banistmo, the health of clients and employees is fundamental. During the pandemic, Nequi became a key ally for Panamanians in the daily management of their finances in an easy, comfortable and fast way,” says Raul Romero, director of Nequi and Innovation at Banistmo. Through a set of alliances and partnerships the bank has made with retailers and utilities, Nequi clients can pay without physical contact. “Nequi managed to prevent people from having to expose themselves by leaving their homes and provided the opportunity to pay for their basic services, in a matter of seconds via their cellphones,” Romero says. “Nequi not only took care of people’s health but also became one of the best options to prevent the spread of the virus,” he adds.

Nequi clients even have the ability to top off their  Microsoft Xbox, Netflix and Sony Playstation accounts using its 100% digital Visa debit card, and receive payments instantly to their account via PayPal.

Finally, with a strategy based on promoting sustainable development, a key Banistmo effort is to serve all. “We are convinced financial inclusion plays a fundamental role in leveraging economic growth,” Romero says. “It expands market options and changes the way regular purchases are made.”