In Payments

The LAC Visa Innovation Center in collaboration with Americas Market Intelligence (AMI) interviewed over 100 leading payments and commerce companies in Latin America. It was the third edition of the Innovation Study, whose most significant findings were shared in one of our AMI Payments Coffee Chats, twice-monthly conversations where experts in payments topics in Latin America discuss new trends in the region. As Roberta Isfer, Sr. Director of Strategic Alliances and Innovation, explains, “For us, it is important to investigate trends and take notice of the ‘disruptive signals’ with the potential to create new experiences that might facilitate sending or receiving payments (movements of money), interoperably.”

Here we present the research done by Visa and AMI to create a full picture of data innovation and the evolution of the payments industry in Latin America.


AMI Payments Coffee Chats for Latin America

PCMI Payments Coffee Chats

This biweekly discussion brings together top payments professionals with PCMI’s team to discuss the crucial issues affecting the industry,


Innovation Study − 2022 Edition

The initiative launched in 2018 between Visa and Americas Market Intelligence (AMI) arose from the need to establish a point of reference for innovation in the region. The research initiative, now in its third edition for 2022, has made it possible to identify the characteristics of the most innovative companies, and the emerging innovation trends in Latin America. The idea is to build a channel of opportunities for companies through Visa Innovation Centers.

In the 2022 edition, we have grouped the participating companies by three types of activity:

  • Issuance. Includes issuers of credentials and digital accounts, as well as card-issuing financial institutions and financial technology companies (“fintechs”).
  • Commerce. Includes retail stores and online platforms that enable shopping and commerce; for example, brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce stores, and cryptocurrency exchanges.
  • Acceptance. Includes companies that enable the acceptance of digital payment methods, including acquirers, payment aggregators, and facilitators.

“We were always looking into not only traditional players but also the so-called ‘$$$ ecosystem participants,’” says Roberta Isfer with respect to the study. “In fact, the most innovative companies are expanding beyond their core business lines and consumer base. They are no longer only issuers or only acquirers; the most innovative ones are everything combined: issuers, acquirers, and even merchants. Magazine Luiza in Brazil is a clear example of a company that is all three. We can mention Mercado Pago, which has become an entire commerce ecosystem.”

The 2022 Innovation Study was able to identify the 30 most innovative companies in Latin America, and exactly which characteristics make them so innovative, as we will see later on.

Five principals of innovation for companies in Latin America

According to Arthur Deakin, AMI’s project manager and a consultant in this study, “defining what innovation means is no easy task. It’s even more challenging to put it into quantifiable figures.” That said, AMI and Visa managed to identify five ‘essential’ principles of innovation within companies. These principles place the consumer at the heart of the process.

1. Internal culture of innovation

  • Customer-centric
  • Looks for objectives and key results (OKR) linked to the executive management’s strategic vision
  • Horizontal and agile structure, with over 80% adoption of work methodologies
  • Decentralized teams with full autonomy and resources to generate ideas
  • Multiple channels feeding innovation

2. Use of technology

  • The technologies are tools that improve the customer journey; otherwise, they are not prioritized
  • New technologies may emerge from any autonomous team
  • Advanced use of technological tools for a post-COVID consumer: open banking, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, all in real time
  • Evolution toward an open marketplace model in which consumer data are used to create unique, personalized offers

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3. External collaboration

  • Horizontal, strategic, integrational alliances, centered on improving the consumer journey
  • Microservice API infrastructure, with the use of open APIs
  • Promotion of open innovation, even with the competition. Practices and technologies are shared, and alliances with new players are actively sought

4. Impact and scale

  • Scaling toward new verticals
  • Constant commitment to offering the consumer new solutions
  • Highly digital user base

5. Execution

  • Ideas aimed at generating an impact, rather than just focusing on the product
  • Progressive implementation model that seeks constant repetition of the customer journey
  • High percentage of developed ideas reaching the market
  • Ideas materialize and reach the consumer quickly

State of innovation of payments companies and merchants in Latin America

The Visa Innovation Study identified five stages of innovation in the region: Early, Developing, Intermediate, Advanced, and Mature. Companies in the “Advanced” and “Mature” stage of innovation increased by 6% between 2020 and 2021. These companies in the Advanced/Mature segment were 9% quicker to launch an idea, and nearly 80% of their teams adopted innovative work methodologies like Agile and Design Thinking, according to the study. Companies at the most advanced innovation level include Rappi, Neon, Mercado Pago, iFood, and Magazine Luiza.

In addition, according to Arthur Deakin, the top 30 innovative companies in Latin America have a greater number of strategic alliances with startups (averaging 10 more alliances) and a greater implementation of API integrations (23% more than other companies).

The most innovative companies in Latin America also prioritize the launch of small but numerous solutions onto the market (progressive implementation) instead of using big bang–style launch methodologies. Visa and AMI experts are seeing that an incremental rise in small improvements in the consumer journey is more effective than the development of wide-ranging solutions. Among Latin America’s top 30 innovative companies, 72% of proofs of concept (POC) were made through progressive implementation, while a big-bang methodology was used in 0% of cases.

Characteristics of Latin America’s most innovative companies

  • Development of impact, but not product-driven
  • Strong and clear vision of innovation, transmitted throughout the organization
  • Autonomous teams that are agile and focused on specific developments
  • Use of external APIs to expand capabilities, while also allowing other players to connect with the company’s microservice APIs
  • Open collaboration and exchange of data is encouraged, even with competitors
  • Technology drives innovation and serves as the backbone of the organization. Next-generation technologies are tested and refined before generating expectations in the market
  • Rapid tests involving the customer for feedback, with a focus on progressive implementation
  • Scalability of projects and ideas to other verticals, without fear of failure
  • Constant interaction with the consumer through multiple channels, especially digital ones

Tips for startups that are maturing toward innovation

  • Use OKR (objectives and key results)
  • Align the ideas with the company’s overall strategic mission
  • Drop ideas that fail to generate traction
  • Decentralize teams and give them complete autonomy and authority
  • Stick to what is simple and effective; regroup every two weeks
  • Create multi-disciplinary teams

Download the AMI Payments Coffee Chat Presentation

Innovation in Latin America

If you are unable to see the link in your browser, click here.

If you would like to keep abreast of other payment developments in Latin America, you can register for our AMI Payments Coffee Chats—weekly meetings with experts from the region.

Moving beyond chats

We also invite you to download the 2022 Innovation Study by Visa in collaboration with Americas Market Intelligence. As the leading market intelligence company in Latin America, AMI offers detailed research on payment topics in the region, helping companies minimize risk and expand their opportunities for success. Our market intelligence team can help you with research on key topics, including cryptocurrencies, buy-now-pay-later, e-commerce, payment methods between consumers and SMBs, mobile wallets, ACH, open banking, and much more.

Contact us to let us know what your needs are, and to explore the possibilities of conducting a study.


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