FinTech Company Developed by an Oxford Saïd MBA Disrupts Banking in Brazil
Approximately 42 percent of Brazil’s population doesn’t have access to basic banking services. One of the main reasons behind this lack of access: violence. Violence disrupts capitalism, and for people living in favelas—low-income slums in Brazil—it keeps them from trusting in the country’s financial system and using a bank.
That’s what Vitor Kneipp, a 2017 MBA graduate from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, and his co-owner, Alexander Albuquerque, are trying to change with their fintech company, Banco Maré. Banco Maré is a digital app that makes banking simple. Individuals can use the app to shop at local retail, pay bills, and get cash from 24-hour ATMs. The hope is to disrupt the current banking industry in Brazil by bringing banking access to areas where, typically, it’s not available.
“Banks cannot set up outlets in these areas [favelas], as the heightened risk of violent crime means they are unable to secure insurance,” Kneipp explained in a news release. “So residents must travel many miles to pay their bills. The journey can involve crossing territories of different criminal factions, which can be dangerous, not to mention costly in both time and money.”
In its first month, Banco Maré helped people pay their bills for what amounted to a total of about $20. Fourteen months later, they’re processing around $216,000 a month for 6,000 customers. It’s been a rapid expansion that has come at an opportune time for Brazil. According to Kneipp, the younger generations in the favelas now have access to more cash than their parents, so banking is starting to make sense, and it’s a habit they want to cultivate.
“There is an increasing amount of cash in the favelas,” said Kneipp. “However, it is the habit of saving, and of interacting with the financial system, that we are trying to introduce.”
It hasn’t been an easy process. Kneipp admits that most individuals in favelas put their faith in people they know, so banking via an app can be a difficult concept to embrace. It can be especially difficult to develop trust. “We are getting around this problem by staffing our agencies with local people, whom the other residents can recognize. The staff encourage customers to migrate from making payments in agencies, to using the app, which allows the agencies to focus their attention on bringing in new customers,” explained Kneipp.
The end goal for Banco Maré is to bring banking to all of Brazil’s forgotten and low-income communities. Currently, they are seeking Series A funding to grow their operation and to take their work beyond the borders of Brazil. “There are 55 million people who could benefit from our services in Brazil, 200 million only in Latin America. Across the planet, this number becomes 2 billion,” Kneipp said.