Leonardo Estrada
Co-Founder and CEO
Hola Cash
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View from the Top

Collaboration is Necessary for Payment Centralization: Hola Cash

By Peter Appleby | Wed, 02/17/2021 - 05:00

Q: What solution does Hola Cash provide to consumers in Mexico?

A: Our core business is delivering a revolutionary change to financing in Latin America. We want to be the biggest bank in the region. Our starting point is accessibility, allowing customers to pay for a wide range of services from just one app.

In Mexico, people need all forms of payment to get through the day. If a consumer goes to get tacos, they need physical cash. If they go to OXXO, then a debit card is useful. If they’re paying for a hotel, then a smartphone and a banking app make everything easier. With Hola Cash, we want to bring these methods together. When we launched five months ago, we only had five core companies registered to receive payment through the app. Now, we have over 100 partners, including Netflix, Amazon and utility companies.

Our end game is becoming the region’s largest bank. However, as a startup, we believe it is important to think in phases. Phase 1 is to centralize payments and partner with disruptive and traditional banks. The idea is to avoid having to carry around a variety of payment forms and make people’s lives easier.

Q: What will be the future relationship between disruptive and traditional banks?

A: When speaking about disruptive banks, we are speaking about something completely new. The customer service, the experience through apps and other aspects of disruptive banks make them stand out. A disruptive bank is like a Ferrari driving down an old and bumpy road. New banks use traditional banks to process transactions, so even if they are providing the very best experience, they are still limited by an older industry.

In the US, Venmo created a revolution by enabling people to transfer money immediately. China and India both have their own alternative versions of Venmo but there is no alternative available in Latin America. This is the revolution we want to begin here. I expect that there will be some form of strategic investment from traditional banks into disruptive banks at some point. But I also expect disruptive banks to take the lead, as we have seen in countries like Brazil with Nubank. Disruptive banks will require solutions like ours to push this progress along. Without apps like Hola Cash, banks will be missing the most important data point that Mexico has.

In Mexico, 75 percent of people with debit cards use them only to withdraw money. This is vital to consider. It is not that people do not believe in banks. There are more than 70 million debit cards active in the country. But people do not, at the moment, have the kind of platform that allows them to easily spend the money they have. Hola Cash enables both the traditional and new banks to process transactions through the app, which cannot be done by just one player. Both traditional and disruptive banks are needed to create and push this revolution for consumers.

Q: How does Hola Cash invest to improve itself?

A: This is a top priority in the company. We cannot offer our users a product that we do not think is absolutely secure and provides the best UI and UX available in the market. For this reason, we decided to invest in talent. We brought in Avinash Kalgi, who spent eight years as Vice President of Software at Visa and is now our Vice President of Software. Antonio Gómez Garza, our COO, had more than three years’ experience at Revolut, while our Chief Risk Officer is Roberto Moreno, who previously led risk at Uber at a global level. We are investing in talent to deliver the best. Our mindset is to create value for the user, building it into the app.

At the same time, we are making decisions inside the company that are not always made by a startup. Very recently, we completed the BPI compliance process. This is a huge step forward and helps guarantee security for our users. The decision to invest time in the BPI process rather than use that effort to attract more consumers is a demonstration that we put user safety above simple growth. If we want to become the region’s biggest bank, these are the sort of decisions we must make.

Q: How does Hola Cash profit from the app?

A: We make money from every single transaction that takes place on the app but the cost is not transferred to the user. Instead, it is charged to the company that the user is paying. So, if the user pays an electricity bill, the utility company will give us a percentage of the total bill cost. We receive payment because we reduce companies’ OPEX. The average percentage we receive is 7 percent but this might go up to 20 percent with companies with which we have a long-term relationship and that see the value of the app.

We will roll out different financial services as we progress. Our goal is to provide users with a way to pay for everything from a single app. This includes utility bills or Netflix but also tacos on the street.

Q: What is the demographic of Hola Cash users and how did the pandemic affect that?

A: People under 25 are our main users. They normally pay for mobile data or gaming services through the app. These clients are our brand ambassadors but it is interesting to see their share in our client base decreasing as we attract more customers. These users often bring their entire family to the app. Users aged 40 and above are using Hola Cash to pay at department stores like Elektra.

COVID-19 did push people to look for digital payment methods. As a result, our user base grew from 10,000 at the beginning of 2020 to more than 200,000 by the year’s end.

Q: What are Hola Cash’s growth expectations for 2021?

A: We always say that growth is a consequence of the quality service we provide. For that reason, we are focusing on growing our list of collaborators. We are not focusing on user numbers but on delivering the best product in the market. Users are effectively running the company through the feedback they provide; they are building their own platform through us. As a consequence, we believe we will grow.

That said, we forecast a user base of over 1 million by the end of 2021 if the growth that we saw last year continues. In 2021, we may look to step into our next national market, as well.

 

Hola Cash is an app that centralizes payments from an array of companies in one single app. It is financed purely through foreign investment

Peter Appleby Peter Appleby Journalist and Industry Analyst