FIS Blog

Being a woman is my superpower

Ashleigh DePopas, Co-Founder and General Manager of GoCart
Amparo Nalvarte Garcia, CEO and Co-Founder of B89 and co-Founder of Culqi (ex-CEO)

August 10, 2022

Amparo Nalvarte García is a leading female innovator in Latin American fintech who is focused on creating new solutions and services to make money accessible for all. She is the founder of payments gateway, Culqi, and most recently has been appointed CEO of fast-growing Peruvian techfin (fintech with technology and data truly at its core) B89.

Kicking off our Innovation Interviews series this year, Amparo spoke with Ashleigh DePopas, co-founder and General Manager of GoCart, an FIS venture. She shares her story, what’s driven her to be a champion of change in fintech, lessons learned along the way, and how ‘being a woman’ has been her superpower.

Ashleigh: Congratulations on your position as the CEO of B89! Can you share some of the innovations company is working on?

Amparo: We are working on two things: making payments more accessible for people with technology and a new model for a credit building solution. This means that people who are not part of the banking system can create an account with us and have access to a credit line, giving them access to money they otherwise would not have. The other product we’re working on is related to remittances – using technology to send or receive remittances to reduce costs.

Taking an example: people from Venezuela that move to live in Peru have so many challenges because they are not part of the banking system. Because they don't have a history and they want to send money, it's very difficult for them. So we want to give them access and enable them to move money without barriers.

Ashleigh: That’s really advantageous, especially for an underbanked community that you’re trying to help become banked.

How’d you continue to fall more in love with the business? What about B89 inspired you or motivated you? What do you love about the B89 mission and company vision?

Amparo: The two most important things for me are the access – how with a digital solution we can give access to people who are normally out of the system or afraid of being part of the system because of things like unfair prices or conditions. In Latin America especially, most people view money as their enemy. They believe money is dirty, or they think that they don’t need the money. I am working to change that mindset and show my clients how they can utilize money as a tool for their benefit.

My belief is that we are all citizens of the world. I believe that humanity has created barriers worldwide. Therefore, I am responsible for breaking those barriers, which I believe B89 helps achieve.

Ashleigh: I can tell you have this ability to quickly build trust and credibly with those around you. During stressful times, as a business leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body for those high-stakes moments? Whether it’s a meeting, having a hard conversation or making a hard decision – how do you prepare? 

Amparo: I like to experience new things, and I studied a lot of personal development approaches. I have one technique that is every time I have a moment when I succeed, I celebrate – I feel the power! It’s an expression of ‘anclaje’ [anchorage]. So I feel that power when I succeed in something. And when you have a difficult situation or conversation, I breathe deeply and follow the same technique: feel the power and enter with new emotion to that meeting. That’s part of my preparation.

Ashleigh: I love that! It reminds me of the ‘power stance’ – that if you’re nervous, you give the power stance, and your body language changes your mindset.

As a female leader, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced and had to overcome? What did you learn from those experiences?

Amparo: Have you heard of La Pequeña Lulú? The small Lulu? It was a TV series for kids. Lulu was a happy little girl and Toby was her friend, but his other friends were all boys, so they told her she couldn’t play with them because she’s a girl. That’s me. Not exactly me! But similar. Someone once told me to remember you’re playing with the group of Tobys – realize where you're playing. They have different mindsets and thought processes. So you need to be more aware to enter that group. Not to be a part of the group always, but to connect and communicate with them if you want to get your objective done.

I realized that my advantage was being a girl. If I want to say something, I’ll talk, and everybody will listen to me because I’m different. I will catch their attention. So I changed my mindset to “OK, I'm a woman. I won’t lose my sense of being a woman. I will act and do whatever I want because I'm a woman, and that's my superpower.” And I took advantage of that. It was very important.

Ashleigh: What were some of your unique personality traits that helped you do that? For example, some people speak up in meetings, others might follow up with an idea afterwards and some are good at just active listening in conversations. What's your style?

Amparo: My style is more direct. I like to be strong and come with power. For example, when I don't agree with something, I'm not afraid to say I don't agree. And I give my reasons. I worked on how to be more assertive because, at first, I was too direct and people were put off. So I learned to be more assertive with the words that I use, to say what I think.

I also use my smile. I always think that we can get more things when we use a smile. When we don’t use a smile, I always think that we have a different approach and different connection with people.

Ashleigh: I love that you showed up as your authentic self in an environment where, oftentimes, women feel like they have to change. For this future generation of females that are rising up in the industry, what new challenges do you think they will face?

Amparo:I mean, girls are now getting these leadership roles. Now, the challenge I think is how they will transmit that culture to the rest of the company because organizations are formed by thousands of people, not only one person. So if you really want to change the culture or the mindset of a whole company, there are many more challenges.

Now, if you're creating your own company, it's perfect because you create your culture from the beginning. But girls that have leadership roles in the government, for example, or in companies that have existed for many years, the challenge there – how to change the culture.

Ashleigh: You’ve had two experiences driving company culture – when you started Culqi and now at B89. What has been your focus in building out a strong company culture?

Amparo:I encourage people to be direct and to work in an equal way. I think it's difficult to find more women that are prepared, for example, for leadership roles, but we need to work with girls from the beginning. When I started Culqi, we hired more women in the call centers for customer support. They didn't have the experience, the degrees, but they had the attitude and the hunger. So they started in the call center, and they learned the product, the technology, and grew in their own ways. Now we have product managers, full stack developers, experts in fraud, who started from the bottom and worked to create their own careers from the opportunity we provided to them at the start.

Ashleigh: What’s interesting is that building culture is two-way street. Women have to want that drive to grow in their careers, but it also is on women in leadership like you and me to give them that opportunity, encourage them along the way and give them guidance to succeed. I love your approach and it does take time to see that change.

Amparo:Exactly, but it depends on them. If they want to grow fast and they want to accomplish that growth goal in six months, why not? We can work with that.

Another example from B89 is Marita, a friend of mine. Marita was working in the tourism industry and with the pandemic. The industry was completely shut down. She has the best attitude ever. She's good at procedures and very detail-oriented, and I want that kind of person to work with. Because I'm completely the opposite. So I asked her if she wanted to work with me, and she said yes! She was worried about not knowing the technology or how to talk with developers. We started a project management course and learned together. I worked with her for a few months and then told her to grow, be herself and succeed. And now she’s the CPO at B89!

Ashleigh: I love that you took the course, too. What's something that you had to work on as you grew your leadership skills?

Amparo:A main growth area for me was my personal growth. It’s very common nowadays – imposter syndrome. I used to believe that it wasn't me who was creating a real business, that I wasn’t making achievements. I had to realize that, even if I have a team that works shoulder by shoulder with me and that I’m not alone because I receive a lot of help from our investors and partners, at the end of the day, it’s me making decisions to lead my startup. I prepared my mind to support the long process and enjoy the full way. Also, I learned to work with objective data without losing my natural instinct.

Ashleigh: I think a lot of women, including myself, have struggled with negative thoughts or self-doubt – imposter syndrome. What advice do you have to women when they're going through a moment like that?

Amparo:I think that we need to be very objective with the things that we're doing. Question yourself and rationalize your thoughts. Ask yourself questions like who created this? Me. So why do I believe I didn’t play any part in this achievement? Rationalize your thoughts to chase away the self-doubt by staying objective with the facts.

Ashleigh: That is wonderful advice, thank you. One of my last questions – what’s next? If you look 10 years ahead in fintech, what do you think the biggest trend is going to be? What are you anticipating that might impact B89, or what is B89 looking at?

Amparo: I think the mindset of viewing ourselves as a citizen of the world will be what’s next. Currently, many companies think within their own countries and communities. If we want to be a global solution, we need to start looking at people as citizens of the world. I see that as a very deep upcoming change in technology and in the mindset and culture of the companies. It’s about how we see our clients.

Ashleigh: And then last question, and we'll leave it on a fun one – what advice do you give to young women looking to enter the fintech space?

Amparo: Take advantage of your superpower of “being a girl.” Fintech is still a male-dominated industry so being a girl is your superpower. Just do it. Go for that leadership role. Why not? You have nothing to lose.