The ability to adapt is one of the most important qualities of our times. There’s no way to succeed without it.
Moving to Mexico
Bibiana and I started Cuenca in January 2018 from our apartment in San Francisco. The first adaptation was a personal one as it became clear that we needed to move to Mexico and build a team locally.
Bibiana left Mexico when she was 15 and had to reacquaint herself with her home country. I had to go from speaking broken Spanish I learned in Madrid to doing business in Spanish. It was a challenge for us both, but it was the right decision.
It quickly became clear the infrastructure we needed didn’t exist for the services we wanted to create. In 2019, we became the first operational neobank in Mexico to receive the IFPE license. We quickly migrated off of our banking partner, Accendo, to work directly with Mastercard. Had we taken even a few months longer to make the migration, there would have been a detrimental impact to our customers when Accendo’s banking charter was revoked by the Banking Commission.
Building infrastructure from the ground up wasn’t at all part of the original plan, but we adapted to what was necessary.
The global pandemic brought with it unique challenges in Fintech. We, like everyone else, had to find new ways to work, but how our customers used Cuenca changed significantly. The transition to online transactions, rapid growth and the demand for our services required us to invest even more effort to meet the needs of our customers. We adapted as you did.
We’re in the early days of an economic downturn and possible full recession. The stock market alone is at below pre-COVID levels. This post isn’t about why it’s happening. It’s about accepting the reality and working within it. We started by recently raising more money from investors, but it also became clear that some of the benefits we previously offered had to be scaled back.
The two most recent changes has been charging Mx$100 for the cost of delivering physical cards and no longer refunding the ATM commissions banks charge. It was a painful decision, and we recognize the impact it has to our customers. Our responsibility though is to create a financial institution in which you can trust. Failure to adapt would be a failure to achieve that goal.
After four years of living in Mexico, my love for the country continues to grow. I’ll soon be a Mexican citizen and will have spent more time in Mexico than Iran, where I was born.
Part of my love for Mexico comes from the resilience of the people. The Cuenca team works through every challenge remembering why we do this: enable more financial services options and access for everyone by creating La única cuenta que necesitas.
One thought on “ADAPTATION”
Nate here. First, I super appreciate the transparency in this newsletter and the background on how Cuenca was born (I wasn’t previously aware). With the radical changes of the economy and the ever-changing state of covid & other factors, I respect and understand the decision to draw back on some of the previous offerings. Yet, it is still insanely inspiring to hear about you and Bibiana’s story, as I moved here a little over a year ago, and became inspired by the grit and culture of Mexico. Not only do I plan to continue to call Cdmx home, but I also have the desire to start a business here in the city, specifically around the sharing economy. I’m in the process of seeking a business mentor and would like to ask if you’d be open to a 30 min-1 hour conversation to understand, on a deeper level, some challenges (and triumphs) you faced when building out the infrastructure here in Mexico. Should you be interested, I’ll leave my contact info below.