As MaRS FinTech continues to expand its international financial technology (fintech) presence, one of its key target markets for expansion is South America. With a population of approximately 385 million people, and an advanced fintech sector, South America has the scale to be a leader in this space.

Brazil in particular is a global destination in many aspects. With the recent success of the 2014 World Cup and the forthcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Brazil has clearly made its mark on the global stage, leading the way for South America.

While Rio is known for its beaches, São Paulo has emerged as Brazil’s financial technology and services epicentre. In collaboration with the Canadian Consulate, MaRS FinTech was invited to participate in a fintech trade mission to São Paulo in conjunction with South America’s largest fintech conference, CIAB.

Adam Nanjee
Adam Nanjee, Head of Financial Technology at MaRS, tells the MaRS mission in San Paulo, Brazil.

Alongside MaRS FinTech, Jeremy Bornstein, head of payments innovation at RBC, and a multitude of CEOs from Canadian fintech startups joined together to explore, evaluate and discover the fintech potential of Brazil. Our hosts, Todd Barrett and Nathalie Herman, Ontario’s commercial counsel in São Paulo, secured introductory meetings for MaRS with various Brazilian financial institutions, innovation centres and key members of São Paulo’s startup community.

To give you an idea about the size of Brazil’s fintech market, Forbes reported in June 2014 that there are over 120 million chip and PIN cards that comprise 93% of all sales transactions in Brazil.

South America has always been a leader in payment technologies and mobile banking. Many of the Brazilian financial institutions expressed interest in Canada’s fintech sector—and particularly in MaRS, where we are seeing the convergence of fintech with other industries, such as digital health, clean technology and retail. As competition increases from other technology providers in South America, including Chile, Brazilian banks and acquirers are actively looking for new innovative technologies—not only domestically, but also for international expansion.

MaRS FinTech took part in a trade mission to San Paulo, Brazil to explore the city's fintech sector.
MaRS FinTech took part in a trade mission to San Paulo, Brazil to explore the city’s fintech sector.

After two busy days presenting to various members of the Brazilian fintech community, MaRS and the Canadian Consulate were invited to tour São Paulo’s newest innovation centre, Cubo. A joint venture between Itaú, Brazil’s largest bank, and Redpoint Ventures, Cubo was created as a non-profit entity to foster startup growth, innovation and access to venture capital, as well as to provide a central landing place for domestic and international startups to enter the Brazilian market.

It sounds like MaRS and Cubo have much in common. As our fintech startups continue to expand and scale internationally, MaRS will continue to build and foster its relationships in Brazil and South America to provide a landing place for collaboration, connections, capital, talent and exposure.

Photo credit: Bandeira by Hugo Martins under CC BY-NC 2.0

Adam Nanjee

Adam was the head of MaRS’ financial technology (FinTech) cluster. See more…