The Latin American region is generally an up and coming region with respect to its wider economic development. Specifically, the region has seen a growth and importance in fintech, producing its own unique innovations, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the space. As The Fintech Times in September celebrates Women in Fintech we take a moment to hear more from some of the female leaders in Latin America. One of them is Ximena Aleman, who is originally from Uruguay, lives in Montevideo and is an expert in fintech and specifically in Open Banking.
Ximena Aleman is Chief Business Developer Officer and Cofounder of Prometeo, a fintech company striving to create an open and connected financial market in Latin America. Prometeo is the largest Open Banking API platform in LatAm disrupting the financial sector in México, Colombia, Brazil and 6 more countries of the region. Prometeo provides a single point of access to information, transactions and payments across more than 30 financial institutions and 45 APIs in 9 countries of LatAm. Promoting API adoption and Open Banking in the continent has become her main focus. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she advised companies in Communications and Marketing Strategy, was Digital Publishing Director at EME, a digital content creative hub for brands & newspapers across Latam and Marketing Head at Dentons Uruguay. She is Professor at Ort University, holds a Communications degree and is completing an MBA in Technology Business.
Describe your career journey so far…
Something that always surprises me looking backwards is that I perceive a coherent path despite having made in many different moments of my life not so obvious choices. Like I dropped out in my third year of the School of Economics, to major in Communications & Marketing. I didn’t pursue a career in the public sector, despite having the chance and knowing Uruguay’s enormous public sector is full of opportunities for economic stability. Or when after working in the most important media outlets of the country, I decided to quit my journalist career and chose to build a digital content hub inside a publishing house. And of course, my favourite, five years ago when I decided to join a group of friends to build my first fintech startup. It was an enormous leap of faith. I think that it is much easier to connect the dots afterwards. Looking backwards I see a teenager defying her parents, a young professional defying her bosses, a young woman defying limitations for professional women, an entrepreneur challenging the financial status quo in Latam. And yes, I think there’s a coherent career path.
As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?
I think that when you are building something new and unexpected, like Open Banking in Latam (where banks are really conservative and the banking sector is really concentrated) you are permanently facing difficulties. So I will focus on two that are relevant specifically for women. The first one is building a tech-based startup without having a tech background. I think that many women feel their background as a limitation for building a tech-based startup. I’ve been lucky enough to have an amazing team of co-founders, so I recommend that approach. The other thing that’s important, is taking into consideration that tech is only an enabler, the business model behind the tech stuff is vital. So if you can come up with a scalable business model that is tech-enabled you’ll find easily the tech match to help your startup. The second one, is fundraising. There’s a lot of VC interest in the LatAm fintech landscape right now, and there are major opportunities.
However, statistics show that there’s a huge gap between male/female checks. Female entrepreneurs like Cristina Junqueira (nubank) or Ana Barrera (Afiore) are trying to level the field attracting investors to Latam and also some VCs like Brava Ventures (led by former Twitter employee Claire Díaz Ortiz) are focusing on female driven startups. But still, there’s plenty of room for VCs to approach this gap as an opportunity.
What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?
I’m interested in 2 major trends. The first one is fintech infrastructure development across the region. As Prometeo, there are other companies building great fintech infrastructure across the region, for instance, SWAP in Brazil or Kushki in Ecuador. I think that as LatAm entrepreneurs we are well aware of the tech gap in the financial sector between underdeveloped and developed countries and we are approaching it as an opportunity to build not only amazing solutions but also a path towards financial inclusion for the region. The other major trend is of course, Open Banking. With Brazil and México – LatAm’s most important economies, adhering to Open Banking and launching the first wave of APIs this year and next year, and many other countries preparing to follow their lead, we’ll see the rise of Open Banking across the region. It will be huge.
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in the LatAm region?
I think that for me the key is to trust yourself. The core capabilities aren’t learnt in school or in the workplace. And that’s hard because you’ll have to learn them from yourself. For me, core capabilities are self-esteem, self-care and resilience. That’s what it takes to envision a better future for you and those who surround you, to challenge yourself to the maximum and to question your preconceived notions of who you are and what you are expected and entitled to do, and then to make mistakes, terrible mistakes, learn from them and use them to create a better version of yourself. This is a permanent, iterative work in progress.