Ignacio Esteban Carballo
Head of Crypto & Alternative Finance at Americas Market Intelligence
Recognized LAC Fintech; Financial Inclusion thought leader, author and public speaker.
Author of several academic research articles, lecturer and international columnist.
Over fifteen years working in Alternative Finance and Financial Technology (Fintech) for Development.
Expert in Financial Inclusion and Digital Finance for Development. Head of Crypto and Alternative Finance segment at Americas Market Intelligence, a leading Digital Payments market research company based in the United States.
Economist, professor, and researcher at more than five Latin American and European universities. Director of Fintech Ecosystem at Universidad Católica Argentina Business School.
Creator of Cimientos Económicos and Host in Podcast Criptonomista by BITSO (the biggest crypto exchange in Latinamerica)
How did you get to become an expert in your key topics?
My professional background is quite special. Because when I was 19 years old, I started working in a bank and began studying alternative finance without knowing it. I was a credit analyst and, at times, helped in debt collection. That was how I witnessed first hand the financial exclusion. I recall the first credit I had to reject and how difficult it was for me to do so after speaking with the client.
The same year, while I was studying Economics at the University of Buenos Aires, the book “Creating a World Without Poverty”; by Muhammad Yunus arrived in my hands. I became a critical analyst of the traditional financial system.
That was when I started studying in-depth Microfinance, but years later Financial Inclusion, and after that Fintech for development, Cryptocurrency, and, along the way, any financial alternative to traditional banking (for example, ethical banking, co-operativism, etc.). I began doing research and teaching when I was 22 years old always with an economic development approach.
Since then, I have devoted my entire professional life to researching financial system failures and contributing to more efficient, fair, and inclusive finance. Both in universities and as an advisor and consultant to the public and private sectors. To be honest, I do not consider myself an expert in anything. Even with over fifteen years of working in Alternative Finance and Financial Technology (Fintech) for Development, I am still learning and will always be learning. Because the financial sector is so dynamic, questions change all the time and necessitate constant updating.
What sub-topics are you most passionate about?
As I said before, I am enthusiastic about any alternative finance proposal for financial inclusion. Of course I am also quite fan of technology. But I am not interested in innovation that is hollow and meaningless. Everything I do, I believe, is for changing the financial sector (or help the companies to do it in a better way).
But, at the end of the day, changing the financial system means making it more inclusive, fair, and a true engine of economic and social development. That is, at least, the story I have been telling myself since I was twenty…
Who influences you on these topics?
Along the way, I was fortunate to meet some outstanding teachers, and not just at universities. I believe that everyone has something to teach, and I strive to learn something new every day. However, different environments have an impact on me and my path: the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) is by far my home.
The majority of my research the place where I created the first Financial Inclusion and Fintech postgraduate courses of Latinamerica was the Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA). The Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) introduced me to a global network of financial inclusion professionals (thanks to Fundación Carolina scollarship). And the CONICET at Argentina make me growth a lot.
I recall so many significant people in my career that I cannot possibly name them all. It is worth noting, however, that I only have one autograph in my house: Muhammed Yunus.
What challenges are brands facing in this space?
In my opinion, the main challenge for brands is to stay competitive in an increasingly dynamic technology-driven industry. Innovation is changing so fast in finance that brands increasingly need hard-to-get (or non-existent) information to make good decisions.
The contribution is to put research into practice to help the private and public sector change the world through finance, helping them to make better choices (It is worth noting that innovation is not only technological, but also methodological).
What do you think the future holds in this space?
Well, we are currently seeing the decentralization revolution. My fascination with the crypto revolution is precisely because it is the most disruptive approach to finance, since finance deals with “financial intermediation”; and crypto-assets bring decentralization (disintermediation) to every aspect of life.
The future is challenging for the financial sector, mainly for leading companies, but it is also promising as long as this opportunity to change finance brings greater financial inclusion.
What brands are leading the way in this space?
The leaders in the Fintech world are still giants like Amazon, PayPal, Alibaba. However, in recent years, we have seen a new wave of pure Fintech (not born from e-commerce) companies such as Revolut, Robinhood, N26, and others.
I study the phenomenon from Latin America, the most unequal region on the planet where in 2017 we still had 1 in 2 Latin Americans unbanked. In this region we have seen a revolution thanks to Fintech. Companies like Nubank, Mercado Pago, Rappi, among others amazing startups that became huge unicorns, are undoubtedly regional leaders (the ecosystem is much broader than the companies I stated).
If a brand wanted to work with you, which activities would you be most interested in collaborating on?
As I said at the beginning, although I make my living from advisory and consulting, I am a teacher and researcher by vocation. Academic life is my example, and I can summarize it in three pillars: a) training of people (education); b) creation of knowledge (research); c) dissemination of contents (forums, congresses, etc.).
Early on I noticed that point c) in the Academy is often separated from reality, from what really happens and really matters to people (let´s be honest, just a few other academics read our articles and journals). That is why I believe that ALL communication channels are valid when it comes to disseminating knowledge, and that why I have a blog, linkedin, twitter (I love it!), Instagram, youtube. That is why I participate in all of them. In short, any activity is interesting for my purposes.
What are your passions outside of work?
I meditate, enjoy sports (running and tennis), play some guitar (not very well, but I enjoy it), Ah, and Dachshunds dogs! I´m an absolute fan of those dogs. I adore my dog and enjoy running and walking around with her.
What would be the best way for a brand to contact you?
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