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Ualá bets on fintech expansion with support from Tencent and SoftBank giants

Argentine digital bank Ualá is looking to double its size, expand its product range and take advantage of the experience of new investors such as Chinese technology giant Tencent and Japanese SoftBank, said the founder of the “Startup” Pierpaolo Barbieri.

Ualá, a personal finance application, announced this week that it received $ 150 million in new investments, led by Tencent Holdings and SoftBank Group Corp, a major technology investor.

“We believe there is much to learn from them in the development of WeChat as a payment ecosystem”, Barbieri said of Tencent in an interview with Reuters.

“They have had incredible success in scaling small loans to create a credit history in China”, he added.

Tencent’s WeChat application, which allows money transfers through the text messaging system, has more than 1 billion users in China.

The company, one of the most valuable registered companies in Asia, announced last year that it would increase its investments in a number of “key areas,” including digital payments, where its service competes with the Alipay application, backed by Alibaba Group Holding .

Ualá – which offers prepaid debit cards and transfer services, payments and savings, and loans – had announced in April an initial investment by Tencent. According to Barbieri, since then the relationship with the Chinese company has been “very close”.

In recent months, Tencent suggested that Ualá be the first financial technology company to implement a system developed by the Argentine central bank that facilitates money transfer, Barbieri said.

The founder of the startup said that Tencent also helped Ualá develop its savings product, which was launched two weeks ago, following the success of its equivalent product in China.

Barbieri explained that the new investments will allow the company to increase its employee plant in the next year to 500 people, from the 185 it currently owns and the only 20 it had two years ago.

On the other hand, SoftBank’s investment in Ualá is the first one the group makes in Argentina. Before, I had invested 1,000 million dollars in the application of Colombian deliveries Rappi.

SoftBank and Tencent now have members in the Ualá board, Barbieri said. Other investors in the Argentine financial application are George Soros and Point72 Ventures LLC.

The investments made by the Asian technology giants prompted Argentine President-elect Alberto Fernández to invite Pierpaolo Barbieri to a meeting.

In Latin America, a large part of the population is not “banked”. In Argentina alone, at least 10 million people do not have a bank account, according to 2017 World Bank data.

According to its own data, Ualá has issued more than 1.4 million debit cards since its launch, in October 2017.

Also published on Medium.

Published inStartups
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