By Riley Kaminer
Latin America’s middle class is on the rise. Rafael de la Cruz, co-author of How to Accelerate Economic Growth and Strengthen the Middle Class in Latin America, argues that while tackling poverty is top of mind for many, the path toward sustained growth in the region is actually hinged upon the resilience of the middle class.
Over the next two decades, de la Cruz predicts that Latin American countries can become developed economies with over $30,000 per capita income (approximately the GDP per capita of some Southern European economies).
One of these routes to prosperity is through the growth of fintech solutions – breaking down the barriers inherent to the traditionally slow-moving and exclusionary legacy financial firms in the region. There have been a wide range of success stories: most notably Brazil’s Nubank, which reached a valuation of $30 billion before its IPO.
But most of the financial innovations happening in the region are targeted at unbanked, underbanked, and younger consumers. With the highest net worth individuals still taking advantage of exclusive private banks, this has left a void in the market for an ever-expanding group of middle class Latin Americans.
Santiago Maggi understands the needs of this community firsthand. The Miami-based finance veteran has spent the last few decades developing financial solutions for Latin American and US Hispanic consumers. Most recently, Maggi has been focusing on developing tech-powered banking products for these consumers, having founded a robo-advisor company.
“I began to realize that this segment of middle class Latin Americans were being left behind,” Maggi told Refresh Miami. He explained that because of the history of political instability and monetary devaluation across the region, many consumers opt to hold their savings in dollars. But that presents a logistical problem: How should they actually keep this currency?
Breaking down barriers for financial optimization
In many cases, the solution has been to keep physical currency in a safety deposit box – or even under a mattress at home. While this shields these consumers from the volatility of their local currency, it still means that their dollars are devaluing every day they are not being put to work in capital markets. “65% of the population leaves their cash in the bank, not doing anything,” said Maggi.
This is for a good reason. Up to now, non-US residents were significantly limited in how they could save and invest their money. They do not benefit from the financial products that American consumers take advantage of, such as brokerage accounts and IRAs.
Meanwhile, regional banks were not equipped with the technology or legal know-how to more effectively serve these customers. Maggi knew there had to be a better way.
Building an all-in-one solution
Maggi teamed up with Pedro Fernandez de los Muros and Mauricio Armando to launch BCP Global in 2017 to tackle these very issues. The bootstrapped company spent years gaining a comprehensive understanding of the laws, regulations, and overall confusion preventing middle class Latin Americans from finding financial freedom.
That all culminated this month in the release of their ONE APP solution. The idea is that Latin American consumers can have all their financial needs satisfied in one place. BCP Global partnered with BlackRock to offer investment portfolios designed by the financial giant to BCP Global’s users.
The platform also enables users to have a credit card in US dollars and purchase a life insurance plan in USD. Next year, BCP Global plans to offer digital banking services for their customers in the form of a US bank account.
Currently, BCP Global sells its software solution to Latin America-based financial firms, who in turn offer it to their customers. These B2B partners include independent financial advisors and mid-sized financial institutions, on top of some larger financial solutions. In large part, these firms’ interest in the platform comes from the massive total addressable market for the ONE APP solution, which Maggi estimates to be at least in the tens of millions of people.
One of the biggest hurdles BCP Global faced in setting up the platform was ensuring compliance across all of its clients’ home countries. “Compliance is a major issue with fintech,” said Maggi, citing FTX as a recent example.
“The typical model of venture-backed fintechs has been to move fast and break things. But in this industry, you cannot do that. We understood from day one that compliance and regulations were key for the long-term success of our company.”
Miami at the center of BCP Global’s growth
Maggi, who has lived in Miami for 30 years, underscored the key role Miami will play in BCP Global’s expansion. “Our tech ecosystem’s success is not transitory,” he asserted, noting the large talent base in the Magic City.
“Francis Suarez is doing an amazing job,” said Maggi, noting the mayor’s pro-business, pro-finance attitude. Maggi hopes that one day an Ivy League university will grow roots in Miami, calling that a potential “gamechanger.”
While BCP Global does not currently leverage any cryptocurrency-related technologies, Maggi said that the firm is monitoring the web3 space very closely and is keeping an open mind. “Crypto is not going away,” he said, despite perhaps it going out of fashion in 2023 due to the market downturn.
For now though, Maggi signaled that BCP Global and its 35 full-time employees are ready to ride the Miami tech wave. “This is a huge opportunity for us, and for our city.”
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