The path of no return
AquiPaga was set up with a mission to democratise payment methods and to meet the changing needs of consumers in the space in Brazil – today as Brazil reels from the affects of Covid-19, affecting all aspects of life including payment needs. To get some on the ground insight – this quarter we spoke to AquiPaga founder Javier Vázquez about the move online for consumers and how it is path of no return as customers embrace the medium.
Ding: Tell us about AquiPaga, your role, and what was the inspiration for the company?
Javier: After living in Brazil for five years, I founded AquiPaga inspired by the global trend of money becoming increasingly digital. AquiPaga entered the Brazilian electronic payments market in 2017 as a day-to-day payment Fintech created to meet the needs of banked and unbanked across the country, from consumers to merchants.
With partners in Portugal and Spain, AquiPaga has built a fully modular transactional payment platform tailored to the complexities and needs of the Brazilian market.
With its mission to democratize payment methods in Brazil, AquiPaga established partnerships to benefit its customers by offering exclusive advantages; no fees, bonuses and always giving money back (cashback) on purchases and recharges.
Ding: Who is your average customer and how have their needs changed?
Javier: Our average customers are small establishments, newsagents, markets, pharmacies, video game stores, also online stores and mobile applications.
The changing needs of our customers is driven by changes in consumption, both in the marketplace and in society in general. The end consumer is increasingly demanding, looking for speed, practicality and expects lots of benefits from the products and services they buy.
Innovation and technology are part of AquiPaga’s DNA, as well as the use of benefit programs. These tools are truly capable of improving competitiveness and delivering real benefits to our clients.
Ding: This month you are launching a direct to consumer APP with the ability to open an account for free and track finances in real time – what will this mean for your customers?
Javier: We are providing easy and hassle-free access to banking and financial services through the app. Now our clients will be able to pay their bills, make transfers, withdrawals at the ATMs 24 hours a day, accept payments, recharge cell phones, gift cards, etc. The sky is the limit.
‘Our products and services help our clients by offering digital solutions at a time when bricks and mortar stores were not always possible – so we were well positioned in that respect to continue to serve them.’
Ding: It has been well documented in the media the effect the pandemic is having in Brazil – what has this meant for your business?
Javier: The pandemic has of course impacted the market for products and services in Brazil, like we are seeing in other regions and indeed across the world.
In terms of our business, we were able to adapt quickly to the new requirements. The truth is, consumption needs haven’t and won’t change, people still need these products and in some cases appetite has even increased as people are needing to do more online.
However, there have been a number of changes in consumer habits, many consumers are avoiding physical stores, making their purchases through e-commerce. Our products and services help our clients by offering digital solutions at a time when bricks and mortar stores were not always possible – so we were well positioned in that respect to continue to serve them.
Ding: We have seen a need for customers to move online in recent months due to the pandemic – do you think these customers have now been converted to online or will they revert back to offline transacting post Covid-19?
Javier: In my opinion, with all these changes in the consumer’s head and the need to do more and more transacting online, a process of cultural change has begun at an individual level and one that is proliferating their streets, their neighbourhoods, their cities, etc.
I don’t know at what speed, but from my point of view it is a path of no return. The move online has begun and won’t stop.
‘Fintech companies in Brazil will play a fundamental role in restructuring the economy after the pandemic, offering innovative products and services in the financial sector in an easy, agile way and without bureaucracy.’
Ding: How big a role does Fintech have to play in Brazil now and in the next few years?
Javier: The Fintechs in many ways were until now simple startups with hopes of revolutionising banking and financial services in Brazil, but only now if this starting to come through. The Central Bank has just launched the PIX (electronic instant payment system) that now allows operations to go ahead with very low cost, which will mean the disappearance of several of the traditional payment methods as well as the fees charged by traditional banks.
Also, the Central Bank has authorised direct credit (SCD) and inter-person loan (SEP) companies, regulating inter-person loan and financing operations. With these new tools combined with financial technology, Fintechs will be able to really differentiate in terms of their service provision, with cost reduction facilitated by disintermediation.
Fintech companies in Brazil will play a fundamental role in restructuring the economy after the pandemic, offering innovative products and services in the financial sector in an easy, agile way and without bureaucracy, which will especially help small and medium-sized companies.
Ding: What criteria do you use when sizing up a potential new market?
Javier: I was born and raised in Spain, the decision to start AquiPaga after living five years in Brazil was influenced by many factors related to that experience.
Many of those are still the criteria we use to evaluate a new market. Perhaps among the main ones is the size of the market and also the growth potential. Brazil as a country is still very bureaucratic and with few players in our sector, which certainly influenced our decision.
Ding: What are your top three tips for surviving and thriving in the payments space?
Javier: I consider the use of technology as a great ally in reducing costs and flexibility.
I believe that those Fintechs that understand the adversities of the market will manage to survive if they adapt their own business model to the demands and opportunities of the market.
We have to think about how to provide resources to our clients to guarantee an attractive level of income with the least possible interference in services, and without creating much friction with payers.
Honouring commitments and making the business continue to operate in a clear and transparent way without generating major noise or interruption for the end customer.
Ding: What’s next for AquiPaga?
Javier: AquiPaga has its machinery ready to continue to scale. Our plan is to grow in a healthy way, maintaining a consolidated and relevant position. And along the way helping to do our bit for the de-bureaucratisation and democratisation of the payments sector in Brazil.
| What’s your mantra or favourite saying?
I have many favourite mantras, so it’s a difficult task, but one of them would be a phrase by Albert Einstein: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
Who most influenced the person you are today?
What’s the single best piece of advice you ever received?
If you could go back to one historical event to witness it, what would it be and why?
What do you wish you had invented?