Looking for a space to innovate…Banks are available

During my trip to Mexico, I had the opportunity to visit some innovation spaces opened by banks. Several banks praise the collaboration with fintechs and that’s why they decided to dedicate specific areas to work together.

BBVA is considered as the friendliest bank with fintechs and one example of this close relationship is the opening of several Innovation Centers in the world starting by Madrid in 2011. In Madrid, the BBVA Innovation Center has an area named “the Living Labs” where the bank presents its most innovative products to the public. The building organizes events related to new technologies, fintechs and entrepreneurship, these ones opened to everybody. Beside, the innovation teams of the bank do also work in this place. Being in Mexico, I went to the BBVA Bancomer building in Mexico DF, to visit the “Piso 33”, or “Floor 33th” the innovation center of Mexico. This floor was opened in January 2016 to follow the innovation models of the other BBVA subsidiaries. Several events are organized with fintechs and entrepreneurs. The space is inside the headquarter of the bank allowing the employees to attend the events or workshops at any time. I was there the day before the final of the Latin American Open Talent, and I could see the commitment of the international and local executives of the bank to know better the fintechs. This type of interaction brings more empathy and learnings for both sides.



BBVA Innovation Center


Banregio Bank, a Mexican regional bank, with focus on services for small and medium-sized companies had also inaugurated a “laboratory” to interact with startups. The goal of the bank is to define a new way to work and provide new products that can involve startups, the small and medium sized companies and the bank. Banregio Labs wants to connect the startup ecosystem with the financial services industry offering a space to work for the startups, training and connections.

In August 2016, Gentera opened an innovation lab to interact with fintechs. Gentera is the group behind Compartamos Bank, the largest microfinance bank in Latin America. Fiinlab, the name of the lab, intends to incubate fintechs and work with all the actors of the ecosystem in one place. The space is in the same building of the headquarter therefore constant interaction with the employees of the bank is encouraged too. Being a group that believes and promotes financial inclusion, Fiinlab’mission is to find and share new innovation business models that mixed with technology can create impact on society.





When comparing with Brazil, I realized that financiaI institutions that bet on physical spaces to interact with fintechs took a different approach.

Itau Bank and Redpoint Eventures inaugurated a building of five floors, named CUBO to be close to the startups. The building is a coworking space for startups, not only fintechs. Several events are organized at the building to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. Some other companies as Saint Gobain, Accenture, Mastercard among others did a partnership with CUBO to approach the startups that work there. As any resident of a coworking space, the startup pays a monthly rent at the CUBO. The building is far from the headquarter. CUBO has become a reference point for the Brazilian entrepreneurship gathering several members of the ecosystem in one place.   

The insurance sector is also betting on innovation spaces. Porto Seguro, the biggest insurance company of Brazil created an accelerator program named Oxigenio. To accelerate these startups (somehow related to the insurance market), Porto Seguro built an exclusive area for them to work.  The residents of the building share the space with employees of Porto Seguro that are opening a startup. To transform the area in an innovation spot, several events about entrepreneurship and innovation are organized to for the general public.



Oxigênio Aceleradora


In fact, there is no a unique winning shot to be the best in innovation and that’s why banks try several alternatives to test which will be the best way to learn, to breathe and to swallow innovation. It is interesting the different models that we have in Latin America and as any “startup project” , these models should pivot and bring more innovative structures in the future.

Do banks earn money with these initiatives? It is not evident because they cannot measure if there is an additional revenue coming directly from these projects. However, they set KPIs about the impact that they are creating in the fintech environment (for example number of startups incubated, additional investments during the period of incubation, new partnerships …). In other words, the return of these investments (dedicated buildings, organizing events..) is taken by the entrepreneurs and the fintech environment. These initiatives boost opportunities for Fintechs to do networking, to meet investors, to create partnerships and find new clients.

 Banks, you are doing more than collaborating, you are putting the bricks and reinforcing the columns of the fintech ecosystem…that’s why the bank-fintech relationship is more than complicated.



BBVA Innovation Center



Fintech…no sorry call me “Insurtech”

The press loves to write about the complicate relationship between startups and banks and how this is changing the financial services market. But, what can we say about “Insurtech”? The Fintech movement was supposed to cover all the startups providing financial services, nevertheless the startups providing insurance services preferred to differentiate themselves and created their own label. The “Insurtech” can put the insurance market to another level where technology will define new products, play with big data and push further the customization.

In Latin America, this movement will may be slower. First of all the insurance market in Latin America is very different compared to the US or Europe. The culture of purchasing insurance policies is just starting. The last years, the middle classes in these countries have grown up developing the insurance culture and appealing international players to settle around. In 2014, the Insurance market in Latin America grew of 2.2% compared to 2013. Even if 2015 was considered as a difficult year, the insurance market should grow again.

The challenge is double:

  • Insurers need to get more clients and there is no generation exclusivity
  • It is all about technology

For example in Brazil, less than half of the insurers use technology or digital channels to sell products or provide insurance quotations.

What are the actions taken abroad to help the Insurtech to disrupt the ecosystem?

Big funds and accelerators are aware about the role of the Insurtech wave.

Sequoia Capital announced in December 2015, his investment of USD 13 million in Lemonade, a peer-to-peer personal insurance in the US. This is one of the largest seed investments in the firm’s history. If they took this risk, certainly Lemonade is creating disruption and is a company that we need to follow in the future.

Axa, one of the top worldwide insurance companies, created the incubator Kamet in order to boost technological innovations to serve insured people. They plan to invest 100 million euros on the project; the program should start on January 2016. This is another initiative to add to their Axa Labs in Silicon Valley and Shanghai and the Axa Strategic Ventures entity.  The company planned to give another step to dig in innovation and technology and contribute to the Insurtech. Axa recognizes that technology is changing the value chain of the industry and they need to act fast.

In Latin America, there is a first initiative launched by Porto Seguro, the top one insurer in Brazil. In September 2015, they inaugurated an accelerator called Oxigênio (oxygen) in a partnership with Plug and Play Tech center from the Silicon Valley. Oxigênio plan to work with 10 startups per year. The first 5 companies will start in January 2016. The first 3 months of the program will be spent in Sao Paulo and then 3 months in Silicon Valley. The companies selected will be able to do business with the companies of Porto Seguro group, to be mentored by executives from the group and active players of the technology market and to use the tools and facilities of the company. Porto Seguro plans to invest 50 thousand dollars in each startup selected.

To get more information please go to the site http://www.oxigenioaceleradora.com.br

There are few examples of insurance startups in the market but we hope that thank to these initiatives, new Insurtech startups will emerge in the Latam ecosystem.

To be a good player in this industry, remember:

  • Focus on the customer, because he is the king (what does he needs)
  • An engaged player (go with the customer all along the contract, not only at the beginning and at the end)
  • Get/Provide data and more data (insurers need data)

If you have considered these three points, your Insurtech startup is on the right path. OxigenioAceleradora