With an underbanked population and skyrocketing use of mobile tech, Mexico offers an open door to growth for Irish financial technology firms seeking new opportunities in the global market. This is a market with a real need for innovative financial services.
“Mexico is in the early stages of a financial technology (or fintech) revolution, with start-ups focusing particularly on flexible, low-cost, accessible services,” says Sara Hill, SVP Southern US and Mexico at Enterprise Ireland. “It is the Latin American hub for the sector and local start-ups flourishing in the wake of local pioneers such as Kubo, Financiero and Conekta, all peer-to-peer payments firms which first emerged in 2011.”
Partly driven by the same social distancing regulations and decrease in the use of cash seen everywhere because of the pandemic, use of mobile banking is soaring in Mexico, up 113 per cent between 2018 and 2020.
Lending and payments lead the way
Across the board, the financial services market in the country remains underserved, but local consumers and businesses are keen to see new services in this area and new financial companies don’t have to compete with legacy institutions as much as they might have to elsewhere.
“Only 47% of the population in Mexico has a bank account,” explains Sara. “That’s why we’re seeing lending and payments as the top two areas in which fintech start-ups are operating. There continues to be huge demand and extensive room for growth in this area.”
Start-ups are also active in Mexico in categories such as blockchain, crowdfunding, cryptocurrencies, digital banking, enterprise financial management, personal financial management, remittances and foreign exchange, scoring, identity and fraud, and wealth management.
“In the Austin, Texas office of Enterprise Ireland, we not only support Irish businesses seeking to break into nine southern states of the US, but also those who want to enter the Mexican market,” says Sara. “We help them evaluate the opportunity there for their business and also offer in-market support such as introductions to buyers, partners and decision-makers.”
Irish businesses soaring in Mexico
Other Irish businesses also active in Mexico include Ornua (Kerrygold’s parent company), mobile recharge provider Ding, forklift firm Combilift, food packaging manufacturer Fispak, GM Steel Fabricators, and pharmaceutical engineering firm Prodieco. Overall in 2019, Irish exports to Mexico were worth €83m, up 36 per cent on the previous year.
A growing market for fintech
When it comes to fintech, Mexico is currently ranked 30th in the Global Fintech Ranking, with Brazil ranking 19. Mexico has over twice as many adults that use digital banking, however, compared with Brazil, Colombia and Argentina.
The Mexican fintech is worth 68.4 billion pesos (around €2.8 billion), with about 4.7 million users out of a total population of 127.6 million. For context, the global fintech market was valued at US$127.66 billion (€105.9 billion) in 2018, with expected growth of 24.8% by the end of 2022.
Understanding market challenges
Rapidly developing markets like this one undoubtedly present challenges to potential new entrants. With a troubled history of corruption in the past, some lingering distrust of financial institutions remains, but the introduction of a stringent fintech law in 2018 has helped.
“This law regulates which financial entities are legally allowed to operate and offer financial services in Mexico,” explains Sara. “So you have to make sure that your business is going to meet the criteria. The law was introduced to protect users and consumers, to prevent money laundering and to help foster an environment of trust.”
Geography can also be a challenge for companies expanding in Mexico, with many rural areas having no banks or ATMs, meaning people are less likely to have bank accounts. While this presents a great opportunity for digital payments, internet and mobile service can be poor in some locations. As a result, fintech firms tend to be based in urban areas, with more than half of the 700 or so start-ups in the sector based in Mexico City.
Other factors inhibiting financial inclusion in Mexico include income, education and even gender. That gender gap should close quickly, however, as men and women are equally likely to use mobile tech and social media.
Building lasting relationships
When it comes to exporting, understanding the nuance of any new market is vital. Firms must remember to localise products and messaging properly, for example, as Mexican Spanish is different to that spoken in Spain.
On-the-ground agents or partners are also crucial when it comes to navigating the local business environment and building customer relationships.
“People in Mexico want to do business with those they know and trust,” says Sara. “You’ll need to make multiple visits to build relationships or to have a strong partner on the ground who can represent your business.”
For Irish fintech firms seeking to expand overseas, Mexico undoubtedly presents a real opportunity to build a user base quickly in a rapidly developing and dynamic market.
Get advice and insight into local market conditions and practices in Enterprise Ireland’s Exporting to Mexico guide.