Open banking promises to forge new financial ecosystems as data is shared among banks, corporates and consumers.
Easier said than done. Banks must be on board. Corporates must be on board. And the technological underpinnings must be in place to connect and transmit information in the first place.
Ximena Aleman, co-founder and co-CEO of Uruguayan FinTech Prometeo, told Karen Webster that modernizing Latin America’s financial services industry rests with offering a single point of data access, a single application programming interface — and by “pushing” some use cases before others. In doing so, she said, Prometeo is unifying far-flung markets, acting as a tech enabler for financial companies.
“What we’re providing is versatile, comprehensive infrastructure that our customers can use in multiple countries at the same time,” said Aleman.
In 2018, after helming two startups and launching Prometeo, “We understood very early on that this infrastructure was quite necessary, especially if we wanted to have better financial services in Latin America,” she told Webster, cautioning that “we didn’t want to be a Plaid copycat.”
Prometeo provides an interoperable open banking platform single API to connect corporates to banks in Latin America, operating an access point to information and data sharing so that payments become experiences, embedded in new services.
For the banks, the impetus to offer that connectivity is critical. If they don’t, corporates will seek out a financial institution that does. The corporate that has API access in Brazil, eyeing new markets in Mexico, may find that offering the same services in the latter country is a no-go because the infrastructure isn’t there. The platform, APIs and linkups with banks level the playing field across markets, Aleman said.
Back in 2018, key questions remained, she said. Banks and FinTechs needed better infrastructure, but what would they do with that infrastructure? The initial feedback from Prometeo’s customers was that open APIs would be most immediately useful, especially with FinTech early adopters in account verification.
“We were also one of the first companies to push account-to-account [payments] in Latin America for several countries at the same time,” she said.
Today, the company enables payments and information flows across 283 FIs and 368 APIs in 10 countries in the region.
“What we’re seeing right now is a lot of demand from corporates, asking for FIs to provide API services,” she said.
Account verification continues to be a use case with strong demand and creates efficiencies for corporates as they onboard new customers. Bank account aggregation with real-time data is growing too, Aleman said. Prometeo also offers a solution for its customers to embed — similar to what’s been seen with Pix in Brazil — so they can receive and pay bank payments.
The company announced earlier this month that it received $13 million in Series A funding from Antler Elevate with participation from new investors PayPal Ventures and Samsung Next. The company will expand its payment infrastructure in markets that are already key, such as Mexico and Brazil, and onboard more customers for cross-border payments from beyond Latin America’s borders, such as the United States.
Companies “are trying to land and to plug into the banking infrastructure in Latin America,” she said, adding that “what we’re changing is the experience people have with money — and how they’re using money.”