SoftBank-backed Ualá debuts in Colombia, announcing an $80 million investment in the country

Previously, the neobank's founder Pierpaolo Barbieri said that Peru, Paraguay, and Chile are also in Ualá's roadmap.

Pierpaolo Barbieri, founder of Argentine mobile banking startup Uala,
Pierpaolo Barbieri, founder of Argentine mobile banking startup Uala, speaks during an interview with Reuters at his company's offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 13, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci/File Photo
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Ualá, the Argentine financial technology unicorn, debuted this Thursday in Colombia, its third market after its home country and Mexico, where it arrived in September 2020. Latin America‘s fourth-largest economy is also the target of an $80 million investment by the neobank.

Born in October 2017, Ualá snagged its last round in August 2021, when it raised US$350 million in a Series D investment round led by SoftBank Latin America Fund and affiliates of Tencent, being valued at $2.45 billion. Before that, in an interview with Reuters, Ualá’s founder Pierpaolo Barbieri said that the fintech wanted to reach out to the unbanked in countries such as Peru, Paraguay, Colombia, and Chile.

READ ALSO: Argentine fintech Ualá launches broker that allows investment in dollars

The Argentine unicorn has obtained a license to operate as a financing company, supervised by the Financial Superintendence of Colombia and with the support of Fogafin (Colombia‘s financial institutions guarantee fund).

The company, as many neobanks in LatAm, aims to boost financial inclusion through easy-to-use and free-of-charge financial services. Ualá offers a free mobile application that allows users to open an account linked to an international Mastercard debit card, without maintenance or closing costs. It will be available for anyone over the age of 18.

Ualá’s card and app. Photo: Courtesy

Cash in can be made free of charge through transfers or cash deposits at more than 7,000 Baloto (Colombia‘s most popular voucher payment method) points nationwide and used to make purchases at any website or business in the world that accepts Mastercard. Ualá also offers up to two cash withdrawals from any ATM at no cost – something crucial in a country where nearly 90% of transactions are still made in cash.

READ ALSO: Central Bank’s resolution threatens digital wallets sustainability in Argentina

Alongside its app, Ualé is also launching a financial education initiative in Colombia called Aula Ualá, an online space with free access to different tools, such as online courses, video tutorials, blog posts, and downloadable material, among other content.

“We have seen in the Colombian market possibilities to innovate and offer different options for how personal finances are managed. At a time when everything is changing, we want to be part of that change and continue promoting it, by building a close bond with our users in Colombia, like we have managed to do in Argentina and Mexico. This is how this financial revolution is growing in the region,” said Barbieri in a press statement.

So far, Ualá has issued more than 4 million cards in Argentina and Mexico and has a 1,300 staff across Latin America – 40 of them in the office in Bogotá. In Argentina and Mexico, the company recently signed agreements to purchase two banking entities, Wilobank and ABC Capital, respectively, aiming to expand not only its customer base but also its portfolio. Both transactions are awaiting approval from local authorities.

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