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On a Mission To Become Latin America’s First Cross-Border Digital Bank, with Amparo Nalvarte García, B89’s Founder

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Key Takeaways:

  • New immigrants are often underbanked (or not banked at all) due to no previous financial history in the country. This is a big problem, but also a massive opportunity.
  • Trust is at the heart of banking. If consumers have the slightest mistrust of you, they’ll go elsewhere.
  • Traditional banking has been unfortunately ignoring the needs and well-being of its everyday customers for too long.

Amparo Nalvarte García Career Development

Amparo began her career with a year-long stint at AIESEC, working as Vice President of External Relations during the Iberoamerican Leadership Congress. She joined Telefonica del Peru as a Collective Labour Relations specialist. Two years later, Amparo worked in the Tourism department within the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism.

In 2013, Amparo decided to venture out by starting Culqi, a payment gateway that simplifies the way people receive online and offline payments. She put this knowledge to good use in January 2020 when establishing B89, a revolutionary new banking platform. 

We spoke with Amparo to discuss how B89 is transforming digital banking for Hispanic Americans around the world. She reveals how combining innovation and cutting-edge can create the perfect banking solution. 


Can you tell us about you and your career?

My favorite thing to do in a business is to sell. My strongest skills are building partnerships and connecting with people. I’m not deeply involved in product design, analytics, etc. Instead, I prefer to be the one that goes out and looks for new opportunities. 

My first entrepreneurial venture was Culqi, a B2B payment gateway I founded in 2013. I exited Culqi in 2019 learning a lot about the challenges within the payments industry, how to start a business, growing a brand, etc. 

It was a truly career-defining experience. I got recognized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as one of their innovators to watch under the age of 35.

Oh wow, that’s awesome! Can you tell me a bit more about B89?

I’m passionate about making payment systems fair and accessible. Our goal at B89 is to become the leading digital bank for Hispanic Americans around the world. 

Digital-first challenger banks are slowly taking center stage in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. We see ourselves at the forefront of the movement here in Latin America. We want to be the first cross-border digital bank on the continent. 

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Our first plan of action is providing bespoke banking for Hispanic American migrants settling in the United States. We’re tailoring our services according to the consumer’s local financial needs and those in their country of origin. This will be incredibly valuable and will serve as our unique differentiator. 

Do you generally find that immigrants have different banking needs?

In most cases, new immigrants can’t attain the full range of financial services abroad due to a lack of financial profile in their new country. They’re effectively underbanked, or worse, not banked at all. 

Usually, immigrants have family members in their country of origin who rely on them financially, a dependence that intensifies in times like these. However, the ability to easily and reliably send money across the world is still lacking in Latin America.

There’s some innovation in the banking sector. Few to no firms are addressing cross-border payments and remittances.


How is B89 approaching the problem?

We’re putting innovation and cutting-edge technology together to create the perfect banking solution. Our ultimate goal is to provide transparent and safe digital-first financial services, accessible from anywhere. 

We want to go beyond what the traditional brick-and-mortar banks have to offer, making sure we bake our clients’ priorities and financial needs into our products and services.

Cybersecurity and privacy are our two massive focus areas. We want our clients to feel financially well, and believe their money is safe with us. 

What does your role look like in the day-to-day?

I primarily focus on driving growth through partnerships. However, this is a pretty large remit. I bring new alliances that generate value, and work together with areas of product, marketing, operations, compliance, and engineering departments, making sure they all communicate and work together as effectively as possible to implement and take advantage of these opportunities.


How is the company currently driving growth?

I like to split my broader teams into ‘squads’ to create a sense of working towards a collective goal. We have different squads where Growth and  Application/Cross-Functional squads are one of them.

The Growth squad focuses on two goals: opening up new channels for client acquisition and running campaigns to strengthen our relationships with clients. 

Our marketing campaigns themselves are largely educational. They focus on strengthening our relationship with our client base. 

Channels are at the heart of our client relationships: acquisition, the first transaction using B89, encouraging repeat transactions, and more. We put a lot of emphasis on understanding which channels work best, for whom, and at what stage in the customer journey.

Consumers are often unaware of the full range of uses and benefits their bank card has, so we want to make sure they’ll make the most out of their B89 cards. We’re spending a lot of time on personal financial literacy campaigns, covering everything from reading financial statements to building positive financial habits. A huge part of our focus is the clients’ financial well-being, so we do everything to help ensure we achieve this goal.

I think traditional banking has ignored the needs and well-being of its everyday customers for too long, leading to people having toxic relationships with their banks. We built our company up with the goal that we win when the customer wins.


What does the Application/Cross-Functional squad get up to?

Each of the company’s squads has strong UX/UI principles underpinning its processes. It’s particularly important within this squad. 

They oversee and improve the customer’s journey throughout our digital banking product. Their remit begins with client onboarding and ensuring clients pass the qualifications and checks with minimal friction. These are generally the biggest barriers to entry our consumers face with traditional banks.

We use Onfido, identity check software to secure information security. Our customers need to record selfies and pass verification checks to assure they don’t have any red flags or adverse history. 

Trust is at the core of all successful financial institutions. If consumers don’t trust you, they definitely won’t let you handle their money.

Amparo Nalvarte García, Founder of B89

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