COA Symposium Panel: Tech for Good

Experts from Mastercard, PayPal, Superdigital, the Common Cents Lab, and Bloomberg discussed how to make finance sustainable in the long-term in Latin America.


  • Mariel Beasley, Co-Founder, Common Cents Lab
  • Leopoldo Martinez, Global CEO, Superdigital
  • Federico Schumacher, Vice President Latin America, PayPal
  • Kiki del Valle, EVP Market Development Latin America and Caribbean, Mastercard
  • Gabriela Frías, Anchor, CNN en Español (moderator)
  • Maria Lourdes Teran, Vice President, AS/COA Miami (chair)

How many people in Latin America became banked during the first five months of the pandemic? 40 million, according to a Mastercard study. While that number is to be lauded, access is just the first step toward financial inclusion, said speakers in a COA Symposium panel. “You want to bring those people into the system, have some means to make their payments and savings, but also to encourage or facilitate environments in which these people are going to thrive,” said Kiki del Valle of Mastercard. “How do we actually make it appealing enough for people to pay their bills? Use it during transit? Be able to make purchases on a day-to-day basis? These are all use cases that need to be built in an environment. That’s when you change consumer behaviors and at the same time, you’re driving the economic growth you’re seeking at the end of the day. That’s the end goal of financial inclusion. It starts with access, but it has to be built.”

People are looking for more proactive help in managing their finances, explained researcher Mariel Beasley of the Common Cents Lab. But what's critical is that "financial education shouldn’t be a product, but something that’s incorporated inside the existing product,” she said, so that, for example, a bank customer can get info about how to improve their credit score within the bank's app during everyday use and doesn't have to learn about it during a second or separate activity.

So how does an online payment company like PayPal see the growth and potential competition from banks' digital services and digital banks? “This is not a zero-sum game,” said Federico Schumacher, Paypal's Latin America vice president. “There’s a very large growth happening and shift to online in Latin America. It's very early, and the pie is growing very fast,” he said, noting that the company is working to ride that wave of growth through partnerships and acquisitions.

One key element to building financial inclusion is a favorable regulatory environment, and there have been some positive developments in that area lately. “One of the things that changed the discussions with regulators is the customer-centric perspective,” said Leopoldo Martinez of Superdigital. “Regulators are thinking about the customer and that population, and not only to protect the system. There is a real legitimate concern about how [changes] will impact the real population. For me, this was music to my ears to hear from regulators.”