We Have to Connect With Startups to Innovate – Interview With Erico Fileno, Head of Innovation at Visa, Brazil

The growth of the FinTech scene helps global giants such as Visa innovate, according to the company's Executive Director of Innovation in Brazil, Erico Fileno. Erico coordinates the co-creation sessions, as well as all of Visa's innovation initiatives in Brazil.

The company conducts co-creation sessions involving Visa customers (banks, buyers, merchants) and FinTechs. The customer identifies a problem of its consumers, and Visa invites startups, accelerators, and other players to help them find a solution leveraging design thinking.

"Today we have to open and connect if we want to innovate in the sector of means of payment. And nothing better than connecting with startups," Erico summed up.

Read Erico Fileno's complete interview below with Let's Talk Payments and StartSe.

In the picture: Erico Fileno, Executive Director of Innovation, Visa – Brazil

What benefits can a giant company such as Visa take from the FinTech ecosystem, whether in Brazil or in the world?

Erico Fileno: What we end up extracting is the possibility of working with open innovation. Today, we have to open and connect if we want to innovate in the sector of payment. And nothing’s better than connecting with startups.

Last year, we created Innovation Studio, a center with activities to approach our customers – banks, payment providers, and commerce. Now we have a fourth element – FinTechs.

In Brazil, we work on an acceleration program with Startup Farm where we get startups onboard in the initial phase. And we also have a program in partnership with the GSVLabs accelerator in Silicon Valley, where we have selected more mature Brazilian FinTechs with two to three years under their belt – who already with clients and traction – to bring international experience to startups.

Visa has programs to approach startups in several countries. Do you see differences between FinTech ecosystems in Brazil and elsewhere?

EF: Yes. Compared to Brazil, the Asia-Pacific region is noteworthy. A startup that is developed in a country in this region, with the exception of China, has to be able to be flexible enough to operate in other countries as well.

There are very disruptive startups that we would not be able to implant in Brazil because its activities would not be allowed by the Central Bank.

What I see in terms of difference (between Brazil and Asia-Pacific) is maturity. We're a few years behind them. But in the last three or four years, we have improved a lot. The city of São Paulo is in the world's top 10 regions for foreign investment in startups and FinTech. And in the last 12 months, we have seen a lot of investment.

Each country has its own financial system regulation. To what extent does this prevent FinTech startups from becoming global?

EF: The Brazilian market is fairly regulated, but it is also very advanced. The financial and banking system here has products that would be considered innovative if they would be implemented elsewhere.

Regulation is increasingly open to dialogue. Within the startups and FinTechs associations of Brazil, I have seen a greater approximation with the government; and the government has heard more.

I'm pretty optimistic about it – from the Commission in Congress to discuss blockchain and Bitcoin to the meetings with BC.

Does the fact that the rules differ in each country make FinTech internationalization difficult?

EF: There is a need for adaptation both in FinTechs that want to go out and those who want to come here. A FinTech that has created an innovative service abroad may need to adapt to implement it in Brazil and vice versa.

But here, we have an advantage – a great internal market. On average, 50% of Brazilians have access to the internet. Another point to note is the number of people that are not yet banked, which is close to 70% of the market.

This content was published in partnership with StartSe, a leading Brazilian website about startups. The portal contains the StartSe Base, the largest database of startups in the country, with more than 5,000 registered companies.