Next month, the Central Bank of Brazil will debut a new instant payments tool. Called PIX, it promises hassle-free transactions within seconds for anyone with a mobile phone and a bank account. And it comes free of charge. PIX has received more than 39 million requests by prospective clients, both corporate and individual, eager to lock in access “keys” to the service.
“Brazilian banking has long been dominated by a few big players who enjoy a practically captive clientele,” said Paulo Bilyk, chief executive of Rio Bravo Investimentos, a Sao Paulo asset management firm. Reinforcing this sweetheart market is the cozy system that deposits the paychecks of 11.4 million relatively well-paid public employees in banks they did not even choose. “The new system facilitates exchanges by making it simpler, faster and cheaper to pay bills. That’s a win for the economy and for social inclusion,” Bilyk said. Sensing the opportunity, regulators began preparing early last decade to disrupt the financial monopoly by greenlighting virtual banks, which peddle checking and savings accounts, credit and debit cards exclusively online and at considerable discounts. Investment in Brazilian fintech has since soared, from $52 million in 2015 to $1.6 billion last year.