This article is adapted from AQ’s special report on Latin America’s armed forces.
In her long career in banking, María Laura Cuya saw firsthand how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are shut off from the financial system. According to the OECD, 99.5% of firms in Latin America fall into that category and a lack of credit makes it harder for entrepreneurs to expand. Cuya says financial technology offers an opportunity to change that picture. She launched a mobile application in 2017 that so far has connected small businesses with roughly $25 million, and is also president of Peru’s Fintech Association. Cuya spoke to AQ about fintech’s role in expanding financial education and entrepreneurs’ access to funding.
What is Innova Funding and what does it do?
Innova Funding is a marketplace that works over a mobile platform. We take an invoice, turn it into an electronic security, and present it to investors who can bid on it. We’re very focused on helping Peruvian SMEs grow, making finance accessible, making prices fair. We are very interested in financial education.
What motivated you to get involved in fintech?
I worked in banks for 17 years. The asymmetries in access to credit are huge. Only a third of Peruvians have access to the financial system. We set a goal for our service to be scalable, innovative and global.
Where does the opportunity for fintech in Latin America lie?
There is a world of opportunity for innovation that can be scalable to other parts of the region. I started Peru’s Fintech Association in 2017, at the time with just a dozen companies, but this ecosystem is growing fast. We work with regulators, academics and other sectors to improve financial literacy and access to banking products, to try to close the huge gap that holds back small entrepreneurs.
Manzali de Sá-Kaye is an editorial intern at AQ