Rocio Aluminé Diaz – Pomelo
Latin America has a population exceeding 650 million people, many of whom don’t have access to a bank account. According to Rocio Aluminé Diaz, access to financial products and services is a great challenge in the region because the technology and infrastructure is highly fragmented by country, very expensive and oftentimes outdated—if not entirely obsolete.
She’s the head of legal and compliance for Latin America at Pomelo, which she says was born from the need to create next-generation financial services technology and infrastructure. She says this allows companies to launch new products and expand quickly, seamlessly and securely, which “leads to financial inclusion across Latin American countries.”
Pomelo works directly with businesses undergoing digital transformations, providing fintechs and companies with virtual and physical credit, debit and prepaid cards as well as digital accounts. Pomelo handles all the backend regulatory, technology and digital infrastructure for companies that wish to launch and scale financial solutions across Latin America.
Diaz is responsible for navigating the rules and regulations of countries across the region. While she’s proud that she’s been able to help the company establish itself and its services across six Latin American countries—Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Perú, Chile and Colombia—in just two years, she doesn’t deny that the process is extremely challenging and complex.
She ensures Pomelo has adequate financial licenses to offer products like cards and digital payment accounts, which are highly regulated across Latin America. Each country requires a specific financial license to operate, so no copy and paste options exist—unlike in the European Union where one financial license suffices for all the countries within it.
“The legal and regulatory road map is wildly different and challenging, but we’re not letting that stop us at Pomelo,” Diaz says. “Even as a startup, we’re reshaping financial solutions across Latin America.”
Instant payments versus lengthy legal processes
Whenever Pomelo moves into a new country, Diaz and her team must figure out the applicable regulatory framework. They also need to find common ground between external local advisors, regulators and business owners to ensure the product is feasible and compliant with local regulations.
“In a highly regulated and ever-evolving industry, our in-house legal team partners with the business to design and implement business strategies that excel in the market and meet stakeholder expectations,” she says.
This means she often advises slight modifications to a product or business model to find a way to offer it in a specific market. She says partnering with local legal and technical advisors is essential, especially in places where Pomelo doesn’t have an in-house team. For instance, she works with Deloitte to file financial licenses in Chile.
“Partnerships can determine the success of the legal and compliance teams in delivering adequate, timely advice to the business,” she says.
Recently, Diaz helped Pomelo develop the PIX product in Brazil, an instant payment method created by BACEN, the Brazilian Central Bank. To ensure compliance with the Brazilian Central Bank and ancillary regulations like rules regarding fraud, data privacy and information security, Pomelo must be connected directly to BACEN or indirectly through a partner to be able to offer the PIX solution. PIX enables users to safely send or receive payments within a few seconds and transfer funds between transactional accounts.
Diaz adds that transactions with PIX have surpassed card transactions and any other electronic transfer methods in Brazil. They have become the main type of payment, achieving an unparalleled adoption in a very short period—a matter of months versus years—accelerating the digital transformation and financial inclusion in Brazil payments industry.
“In the near future, we will continue to see PIX’s evolution with new features like cross-border instant transactions and international payments,” Diaz says. “Pomelo is making this a part of our portfolio as BACEN explores partnerships with other Latin American countries.”
Banking on a digital future
Diaz says Pomelo has grown rapidly because it provides card-related products in countries where these aren’t regulated or restricted and offers other digital accounts solutions only in countries where it has financial licenses and/or partnerships in place.
“This has allowed us to reduce our time to hit the market, which is the savvy choice because a lot of competitors are trying to enter this field,” Diaz says.
She and Pomelo moved fast to build a brand and market validation with unregulated products and the knowledge that it could offer more products after receiving the necessary licenses for those. It’s one of the reasons the company was able to grow from zero to 300 employees across six countries in just two years.
Of course, as a startup, Pomelo needs funding, the efforts for which started in 2021, a few months before Diaz joined in June. By October, the company completed a Series A round, raising $35 million—followed by an extension of an additional $15 million one year later.
In the highly regulated financial industry, a strong legal department that brings value to the organization is crucial, Diaz. A few months after she joined, she started building the legal, compliance and anti-money laundering teams to further Pomelo’s regional expansion strategy.
Her years of legal expertise in the financial world have come in handy, she says.
After receiving her law degree in 2008 from Universidad Austral in Buenos Aires, she specialized in corporate and banking law, working in private firms advising large commercial private banks and multinational companies in the payments industry, such as American Express. By 2014, among many certificates, she’d obtained her Master of Law in international business practice from Boston University School of Law.
She then spent time as a senior associate at the Argentinian leader in renewable energy, Genneia, where she worked on financings for wind and solar farms. She was also an assistant professor at Argentina’s UCA and a researcher in the electromobility group with the World Energy Council. By the time she joined Pomelo, she’d also been a regional counsel at Mercado Pago, one of Latin America’s largest fintech companies. There, she led regional projects in six countries: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay.
“I love that what I do positively impacts companies and consumers in Latin America,” Diaz says. “Pomelo is modernizing and enabling financial solutions with state-of-the-art technology for Latin American companies, so that they can become major players not just in their countries but across the region in a fast and transparent manner.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Summer I 2023 Edition here.
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