Businesses and individuals alike have aroused a particular appetite for digital tools that serve as an alternative to cash and facilitate access to services, such as saving money and performing financial transactions without paperwork or additional fees.
Currently, digital financial players such as Nequi, Daviplata, Lulo Bank, Nu (from Nubank) have made their way into the Colombian market. And this year a new one entered the competition: Ualá.
The latter is an Argentinian unicorn that was launched in 2017 by Pierpaolo Barbieri, with the aim of improving financial inclusion in Latin America, through a mobile application that facilitates the opening of the low amount deposit linked to a debit card. Mastercard international debit, maintenance-free. or closing costs.
Today, Ualá has become one of the fastest growing companies in Latin America, positioning itself as one of the 10 Challenger banks the most valuable in the world, with a valuation of US$2.45 billion, earning it the title of unicorn.
In an interview with EL COLOMBIANO, Natalia Ríos, Country Director of Ualá Colombia, spoke about the company’s objective in the country, the new services and alliances that have been sealed and the company’s prospects in the region. .
How did Ualá manage to become a unicorn?
“Ualá became a unicorn in 2021 when it closed an investment round of US$350 million, reaching a valuation of US$2.45 billion. This Series D was led by SoftBank Latin America Fund, the technology fund focused on the Latin American market; and Tencent, a leading technology company in China. This was the largest round of private investment an Argentine company has received.
However, for us, nothing changes in a company when its valuation crosses an imaginary threshold. Being a unicorn is part of the journey, it was never the point.”
What are you looking for with your operation in Colombia?
“We seek to join this regional vocation to offer a financial ecosystem that improves people’s lives. We announced our arrival in the country last January, incorporated as a financing company supervised by the Financial Superintendence of Colombia and with the support of Fogafin. We initially launched a transactional product that includes an app (available for Android and iOS) and an international Mastercard. To date, we’ve also added payment and recharge functionality for over 1,600 public and private services. We have a team of over 1,300 people, 40 of them in Colombia.
What alliances have you made with other companies in Colombia?
“Currently, we have alliances with companies such as Merqueo and Sugo. And in addition to these delivery companies, we have agreements with Go Pass, to provide mobility benefits. We also have discounts with Alpina Go, in the food category; with HBO Max, Despegar and Booking for entertainment and travel; and in the field of online education, we are with Platzi, Coderhouse, Digital House, Educacion It, Educacion BIz, Nucba and Puramente, among others. Now, we have made the most recent alliance with Efecty: we have authorized more than 10,000 points for credits, after the departure of Vía Baloto. Our portfolio of alliances is not static. We are constantly looking for allies who meet the interests of our users”.
How are you looking to improve financial inclusion in Latin America?
“We approach financial inclusion on two fronts: a product that guarantees access and financial education. Our big bet not only in Colombia but also in Argentina and Mexico is Aula Ualá. It is a platform that we have created not only for our users but for everyone. Here we have learning modules, templates, downloadable materials, videos and free tutorials. Our motto is that at Aula Ualá “we talk about finances, but easily”, and precisely our intention is to improve the understanding of personal finance management for everyone”.
What strengths and weaknesses do you see in the Colombian financial market?
“The Colombian financial market is experiencing considerable growth and a constant dynamism that meets the demand and needs of the country’s consumers. Over the past two years, the Colombian fintech sector has become the third largest in the region by number of companies. It is surpassed by Mexico and Brazil, which are considerably larger markets.
However, the number one enemy of the Colombian financial market is cash: it is expensive for the State, it is precarious and, in addition, it does not allow Colombians to start a life of credit. In a country like Colombia, which according to Asobancaria is still in the top quartile of cash utilization in the region, we have a long way to go”
employees make up
the work team of
Uala in Colombia.
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