Santander’s $100m bet on fintech start-ups: Interview with Mariano Belinky (video)

4 Dec 2015

Mariano Belinky, head of Santander InnoVentures

“Ours is a global mandate,” says Mariano Belinky, head of Santander InnoVentures, Santander Bank’s $100m investment fund for fintech, and the man responsible for scouring the planet to invest in the future of finance.

Santander InnoVentures is the $100m fintech VC fund of Santander Bank – focused on investing in the most promising and innovative fintech start-ups globally.

Simultaneously laid back but with his mind on the detail, Santander InnoVentures’ Mariano Belinky explains that the new venture fund is a first for the venerable global bank and that he is excited by new technologies emerging from areas of the world as diverse as Columbia and Israel.

The fund has made five investments to date: iZettle, Cyanogen, MyCheck, Ripple and Kabbage.

“The way we think about investment is not just capital. Capital is everywhere. We look at ways to collaborate with companies and add value, not just the capital but scale, access to clients, branding and expertise.

“That effectively means we end up investing in those geographies where Santander is present – the UK, US, continental Europe, Latin America and Israel.”

Belinky explains that like any bank of its scale mergers and acquisitions have played a large part in its history, but Santander InnoVentures is different.

“It is the first time that the bank has decided to go into venture capital following venture capital rules in the sense of small participation, no expectation of an acquisition down the line, no control but really working beside the companies as opposed to integrating them outright.”

Finance is everywhere

Areas of investment currently exciting to Santander include artificial intelligence and big data, which Santander uses for risk and client analytics, new lending platforms, currency types, including blockchain, and new ideas and ways for people to manage their money.

In particular, Belinky says the rise of neobanks, which don’t have branches but still help people manage their financial needs, are of interest.

“All of these trends we are very excited about.”

Geographically, he says the most exciting areas of the world for fintech aren’t in traditional bastions of commerce like the UK, Germany or the Netherlands but instead places like Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Columbia and Israel.

“Fintech is driven by financial needs and financial needs are everywhere. The nature of solutions is different but you really need to see a global ecosystem coming together.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years