Key trends impacting the payments space in LATAM emerging markets – Interview with Irene Skrynova

Monday 6 March 2023 08:03 CET | Editor: Raluca Ochiana | Interview

Irene Skrynova, Chief Customer Officer at Unlimint, discusses the main trends impacting the payments space in LATAM emerging markets and shares pointers for global merchants who wish to expand to new geographies.


In recent years, the public dialogue around financial inclusion has peaked. What can merchants do to contribute to it and serve a broader audience?

Nowadays, we witness the exceptionally dynamic evolution of neobanks, who serve millions of users globally and help us step forward to a more inclusive financial environment. In Latin America, for example, startup neobanks are more flexible than traditional banks and can provide a broader range of solutions to unbanked segments in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. It is known that getting a banking licence in the region can be extremely lengthy and bear high costs; thus, more agile players can access the banking sector faster by leveraging others’ licences via Banking-as-a-Service. As a result, this trend could help Latin America to deal with financial inclusion and bring more population into the economy.

From an ecommerce perspective, in addition to offering traditional card payments, merchants need to consider other alternative means of payment, especially for emerging markets. For example, as payment methods, digital wallets have long become a means of financial access for many unbanked consumers who now use them as their primary financial platform. If we look at Brazil, digital wallets are already known by 80% of the population, and approximately 63% have used this payment method at least once.

Local unbanked consumers in LATAM also heavily depend on cash-based methods like Boleto in Brazil and Oxxo Pay in Mexico. Both are voucher-based payments that can be paid at bank branches (in the case of Boleto) or convenience stores (in Oxxos Pay’s case). Boleto still represents 7% of the payment preferences within an app in Brazil; still, it has been losing more and more ground to digital wallets (8%) and Pix (19%), according to Panorama Mobile Time/Opinion Box research.

That is why, for a merchant who operates in emerging markets and wants to serve a broader range of consumers with different purchasing power, it is essential to partner with a fintech payment provider with a local presence. The offering of alternative methods as means of payment will allow them to consider the preferences of audiences in different stages of financial access.

Considering that in LATAM local payment methods are part of the status quo, what is the relationship between these and traditional payment methods in the region?

Latin America is a region that, in recent years, has seen more and more people moving towards digital payments. Even though a 2021 report by the Central Bank highlighted that 73% of adults in the region already have a bank account, a significant percentage of the population remains unbanked.

Therefore, alternative payment methods are still essential for the region, and they dominate the payments field. We see new instant transfer methods, such as Pix in Brazil, CoDi in Mexico, and PSE in Colombia, which have become very popular in the region. They now represent a new norm of frictionless solutions, making products and services more accessible. E-wallets have also gained a lot of ground, and in Brazil, they already represent 8% of the purchase preference in apps, while in Colombia, the two largest digital wallets, Daviplata and Nequi, transacted COP 34 billion (EUR 6.6 million) and COP 75.4 billion (EUR 14.7 million), respectively, according to data from Latam Fintech Hub.

That shows that for an ecommerce business to succeed in LATAM, it is essential to understand the local payments landscape and to take a localised approach to its payment offering. With this, it will be possible to grow and expand successfully.

According to Mastercard, two-thirds of Latinos want greater flexibility to use crypto and traditional payment methods interchangeably in their day-to-day operations. What is the status of crypto payments in emerging markets?

Latin America was one of the central regions in the world that saw massive cryptocurrency adoption growth in the last 12 months. Between July 2021 and June 2022, the total of transacted cryptocurrencies in the region was equal to BRL 2.9 trillion (equivalent to EUR 532 billion). 

One of the main countries responsible for this was Brazil, which ranked fifth in the world and received approximately USD 150 billion in cryptocurrencies in 2022. There, the adoption of crypto is predominantly seen as an investment strategy – additional support for economic stability.

In countries like Argentina and Venezuela, which suffer from exorbitant inflation rates, cryptocurrencies help users protect themselves from consistent price increases because crypto doesn’t respond to inflationary pressures like a foreign currency would. According to a survey by Wunderman Thompson, two-thirds of Argentinian crypto users noted that trading in crypto allowed them to protect themselves from inflation. 

The adoption is so strong in the region that almost 5% of all payments accepted by remote workers in the first six months of 2022 were made in cryptocurrencies. That’s up from 2% in the last six months of 2021.

What lessons can global merchants learn from Brazil when penetrating a new emerging market?

Brazil is Latin America’s leading financial hub, with a unique payment and ecommerce landscape – and many opportunities for those eager to explore it. In 2021, Brazilian ecommerce registered record sales of more than BRL 161 billion (EUR 28 billion), and merchants interested in entering this market need to consider several factors and specifics.

On one hand, a portion of the local population still depends on cash-based methods. Yet, the younger part of it is actively embracing new digital means of payments like Pix. In October alone, 130 million people and 11.4 million businesses used Pix at least once, handling more than BRL 1.03 trillion (over EUR 181 billion)

The conclusion is that LATAM is a region that represents communities with very different economic and social realities – and, therefore, it requires a deep understanding of its population’s needs. That’s why the choice of a payments partner can genuinely make or break a merchant’s strategy to penetrate the local market. Finding a partner who offers the right payment portfolio for the region and understands the local payments landscape is essential for a successful expansion.


This editorial piece was first published in The Paypers' Cross-Border Payments and Ecommerce Report 2022–2023, which taps into the fast-growing cross-border market and provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments that are pivotal in this space, being the ultimate source of information for ecommerce businesses interested in expanding globally.

About Irene Skrynova

Irene is a highly respected senior executive with diverse international experience. Her ability to use potential threats as opportunities together with her bravery in implementing innovative ideas helped her set a direction for global expansion on the payments market for Unlimint, take decisive steps in establishing local branches, and strengthen the company’s overall global presence.

About Unlimint

Founded in 2009, Unlimint is a global fintech company that offers a large portfolio of financial services, including payment processing, banking as a service (BaaS), and an on ramp fiat solution for crypto, DeFi, and GameFi. The company’s mission is to deliver solutions that eliminate financial borders, enabling businesses to operate both locally and internationally with ease across Europe, the UK, LatAm, APAC and Africa. Based in London, Unlimint has 500 employees across 16 offices and five continents, including Frankfurt, Singapore, São Paulo, Hong Kong, and Mexico. For further information, please visit:

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Keywords: cross-border payments, ecommerce, marketplace, merchants, digital wallet, local payment method, payment methods
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Companies: Unlimint
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce


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