Crypto.com Hires Former Visa Executive to Lead Latin American Expansion
Filomena Ruffa brings a wealth of regional experience as well as accolades working at Visa Latin America.
- Crypto.com looks to continue its on-going growth by moving into the LATAM region via key hire.
- Filomena Ruffa previously assisted Visa Latin America by introducing disruptive technologies to the region.
- Made of over 30 countries, Ruffa will juggle innovation with various cultural barriers between countries.
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Crypto.com continues its global expansion, adding former Visa executive Filomena Ruffa. She will lead the firm’s objectives in Latin America, where crypto has already gained healthy traction in several countries.
Indeed, populations in this region of the world have many different needs and reasons to use crypto.
Instead of simple speculation, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology offer the possibility to leapfrog traditional financial services. The use cases range from payments, remittances, and simple savings technologies.
The invention of Bitcoin has thus ushered in an error of seamless cross-border payments for anyone with an Internet connection. Rather than relying on private third-parties or larger government entities, crypto users can spend their hard-earned money freely.
In the modern era, users simply need reliable products and an experienced liaison to onboard them.
Crypto.com’s objective seeks to fill this precise need. By adding a veteran of the financial sector to lead the company’s mission in a region eager to adopt new technology, Crypto.com is banking the unbanked in real-time.
Ruffa adds vast experience working for Visa Latin America, helping the company introduce users to new payments and financial technologies as VP of innovation and strategic partnerships.
The CEO of Crypto.com, Kris Marszalek, said:
“Filomena’s extensive experience working in the Latin American payments market is a valuable asset to the Crypto.com team as we continue our expansion into this important region. With over half a billion people and a robust crypto ecosystem, LATAM has huge potential and Filomena’s deep experience in this region will help strengthen our services to this market.”
To learn more, Crypto Briefing spoke with Ruffa about her work in the region, as well as how she plans on bringing crypto to the masses.
Interview with Filomena Ruffa, Crypto.com’s General Manager of Latin America
[Crypto Briefing]: Why is Latin America so interested in using cryptocurrencies and crypto-based technologies?
[Filomena Ruffa]: We’ve seen in Latin America that the issues driving the fintech wave are the same ones driving the use of cryptocurrencies in the region. In less than 10 years, we have witnessed an explosion of fintechs, growing from about 100 in 2012 to 1,200 in 2018.
Fintechs and cryptocurrency companies are addressing a few key issues in the region:
- Lack of access to banking and financial services – According to the World Bank, more than 200M people lack access to banks. In addition, only a fraction of the population — about 115M — has a credit card. Most of the issued cards are local cards, which limit access to cross-border payments.
- Remittances – in recent years, migrants from Latin America have been sending money to their home countries. A recent report from Chainalysis pointed to high costs and long wait times associated with remittances in Latin America. Residents there are in need of economical, quick, and secure ways of sending funds to their families and friends.
- Financial Instability and lack of trust in government policies – In recent years, countries such as Argentina (in 2019 inflation rose more than 50%, it is currently more than 100%), Brazil (in 2015 Brazil recorded the highest inflation in more than a decade) and Mexico have suffered financial difficulties, and high inflation rates have left their citizen with weaker fiat currencies. People in Latin America are looking for ways to protect their wealth, and cryptocurrency is seen as a viable alternative to preserve their assets.
There are additional driving forces shaping the future of Latin America, such as a younger population (The average age in Latin America is 30 years old), as well as smartphone and internet penetration rates at about 70% each.
All these elements combined have resulted in the creation of a number of start-ups in Latin America that are making positive impacts through cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies and a subsequent rapid increase of the crypto community.
[CB]: With so much experience working in the region, are there any misconceptions about Latin American crypto adoption?
[FR]: The biggest misconception I’ve seen is that crypto is only filling a void left by unstable traditional financial markets in LATAM.
Yes, the region does have some instability in certain markets that triggered consumers to seek viable alternatives, but more importantly, crypto companies have invested significant resources in developing products and local communities in the region, resulting in a strong crypto ecosystem in Latin America.
Strong crypto adoption in LATAM has been driven more by strategic innovation and focus on regional consumer needs than a perception that financial markets are totally broken.
[CB]: What are the primary use cases for cryptocurrencies in this region?
The key use cases are for remittance payments, as a safe store of value, and trading.
[CB]: Are there specific products in the Crypto.com portfolio that you expect to be quickly adopted?
[FR]: Although we are in the process of building our presence in the region and rolling out our products in various countries, we are experiencing incredible adoption of our Crypto.com App. Many have already downloaded the app and are enjoying a delightful experience purchasing and selling crypto.
In August, we released both Spanish and Portuguese localized versions of the App, which are the first of many steps to deliver on our belief that it’s a basic human right for everyone to control their money, data, and identity.
[CB]: As the new general manager of Latin America, what are the first steps you will take to continue growing Crypto.com in the region? What obstacles can you expect to overcome?
[FR]: My first steps will be to leverage my previous experience and relationships in LATAM to explore strategic business partnerships for Crypto.com and to help build out the local communities. LATAM already has a very strong crypto community; countries like Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia have experienced a surge in cryptocurrency users, especially in the last years. I will be working hard to tap into the different countries to help extend the robust Crypto.com community into the region.
One obstacle is the diverse nature of Latin America and the nuances of the various countries. With the Caribbean countries, South America, Central America, and Mexico, LATAM includes around 30 countries, each with its own culture, customs, infrastructure, financial systems, etc. Some have a very mature crypto ecosystem, others are less mature, but each is unique and requires a deep understanding to effectively gain traction.
I will be relying on significant community support, my previous experience, and key partnerships to overcome these obstacles.
[CB]: Where do you see Latin American crypto space in 5 years? 10 years?
[FR]: Latin America is already a leading region in crypto adoption, and I expect in 5/10 years it may become the most robust crypto market in the world, possibly causing it to catch up with more developed regions. Crypto adoption is already very strong, innovation is accelerating in the region, and a number of central banks — Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay — are actively exploring CBDCs.
Additionally, the OECD has warned that the regions have less “fiscal space” to cope with the economic impacts of the pandemic than it did before the 2008/9 financial crisis, which may, in turn, spur a wave of innovation in digital payments, including DeFi, especially given the region leads the world in smartphone app use.
We thank Ms. Ruffa and the Crypto.com team for taking the time to answer these questions.
Disclosure: Crypto.com is a sponsor of Crypto Briefing.