Em Conversa looks to uncover the secrets in Latin America (LatAm) that have caused the fintech market to boom, from being worth less than $50million in 2016, to $2.1billion in 2022. Nelson Chu, founder and CEO of Percent, discusses the credit marketplace in LatAm and how the company aims to provide channels of capital for consumers and small businesses.
Nelson Chu, is the founder and CEO of Percent. Having worked in and around fintech for over 15 years, Chu has developed a wealth of experience from various different sectors of the industry. These include working with crypto while at BlockFi, and as a senior performance analyst at Bank of America.
Seeing a need for greater access to credit, in 2018, Chu created Percent. Looking beyond the US borders, Percent has recognised the potential for organisations in LatAm, given its digital-first mindset. Explaining this further, Chu sat down with The Fintech Times:
Can you tell me more about the company and your role within it?
At Percent, we have created the modern credit marketplace. We empower investors, borrowers, and underwriters with innovative technology to increase the speed and velocity of transactions at a fraction of the cost.
Our core infrastructure delivers public market efficiencies to a very analogue and low-tech private credit market. This is done by powering the sourcing, structuring, syndication, surveillance and servicing of private credit transactions from beginning to end. In only a few short years, our platform is becoming the market standard for asset-backed and corporate lending, powering over $1 billion in transaction volume in a multi-trillion-dollar private credit industry.
I’m the founder and CEO of the company. In my role, I’m involved in everything. From product innovation, to developing deep relationships with our customers, to marketing and PR and mentoring the team. I’ve worked hard to assemble a stellar team with diverse backgrounds and experience at well-known companies. These include UBS, Crėdit Agricole CIB, Capitolis, Refinitiv and J.P. Morgan – to name a few.
What led me to found the company was witnessing the inefficiencies in the private debt markets. Such as the lack of standardisation, transparency and limited access. I am proud to bring such unique innovation to the fintech and financial services ecosystem.
The private markets space especially was in much need of powerful infrastructure in order to evolve. What Percent has created is revolutionary and will change the way this $7trillion dollar market operates. Gone are the days of handling transactions via emails and Excel. We are finally bringing this asset class and industry into the modern era.
When all is said and done, our hope is that Percent and its technology can help elevate the region for both consumers and small businesses alike with the capital efficiency we’re able to bring to the table through these fintech startups.
How is the private credit industry impacting LatAm when compared to the rest of the world?
Right now, it’s at a starting point and a burgeoning industry. Private credit as an asset class is just misunderstood and really not a known entity around the world. That’s one of the reasons we’ve started Percent. To enable fintech lenders and VC-backed startups anywhere to access private credit using a technological infrastructure that is up to par with what they’re used to.
There is a huge opportunity for innovation within fintechs, and the startup community as a whole, in Latin America. The region holds a unique and promising position, given many companies are built with a digital-first mindset where innovation and technology are at their core. Having alternative sources of capital, such as private credit, can help these companies thrive. Additionally, they can help secure financing in these more volatile markets.
Private credit has not always received the attention it deserves globally. As a result it is not as developed as private equity and venture capital. We believe private credit is primed to be the solution in this difficult economic climate as venture capital in particular dries up.
What does this mean for the startups across LatAm?
Access to this platform unlocks the ability for many of these companies to obtain financing that is only historically found in more complex and established markets.
With Percent, we provide LatAm companies with an end-to-end marketplace to tap into investors and underwriters. This will help them secure the capital they need to survive and thrive in this new volatile market environment. Everything from raising debt capital, establishing partnerships with international banks, and building up a track record with US retail and institutional investors is all possible with the infrastructure we’ve built.
How is Percent helping improve the sector in the region?
Since inception, Percent has worked with multiple early-stage companies that are redefining the fintech landscape in Latin America. Our first transaction in the region was for an SME lender from Mexico in 2019. This was followed by consumer lending companies serving the under-served sectors in Colombia in 2020 and 2021. Most recently, a Peruvian-based company, focused on financing ride-hailing drivers in LatAm in 2022.
This year we also onboarded three programs for fintechs from Mexico. These range from early wage access to a company involved in offering Lending-as-a-Service. For the first half of 2023, we have a robust pipeline, including our first offerings for fintech trailblazers in Brazil, Panama and Uruguay.
These are all companies that are the face of innovation in LatAm. Percent is providing banking and credit solutions that were simply not available before. When all is said and done, our hope is that Percent and its technology can help elevate the region for both consumers and small businesses alike with the capital efficiency we’re able to bring to the table through these fintech startups.
What are some unique challenges associated with the region in the sector?
For capital providers, the biggest challenge in the region is implementing debt structures that are scalable. Meanwhile, still providing protection for investors, and even still remaining compliant with each country’s regulatory frameworks. From the perspective of fintech lenders looking for capital, one of the biggest challenges is their lack of connectivity. In addition to access to capital providers.
As a result, the cost of financing available to these companies is less favourable than in more developed, transparent and dynamic markets. With so many more roadblocks in place to access capital, these companies are directly affected. Ultimately, it impacts the survivability of what would otherwise be a very promising endeavour they are pursuing.
Plans for Percent’s future
We are shifting to a pure-play software solution to be even more capital efficient. On the workflow side, our technology can support transactions as small as $50K all the way up to hundreds of millions. We’re going to be doing this all-in-one software suite. On the data front, we are going to be providing even better monitoring of assets using the most innovative technology available.
These next 12 months will be critical as we demonstrate to the world how we are revolutionising, modernising and transforming the private credit market.
I wish I could share more. It’s truly going to be an incredible year for us at Percent and I can’t wait to tell you about all our latest successes when they happen.