London’s role in Panama’s vision for Latin American digital hub

Parinda Selified

Panama, located on the narrowest part of the strip of Central America that separates the North and the South of the continent is looking to become the new digital hub for the Latin American region. Having been a seafaring focal point for over a century, plans for a second canal in neighbouring Nicaragua is triggering a transformation.  Just like London in Europe and Singapore in Asia, Panama is now seeking to exploit its unique position to become a Latin American financial hub and is looking to the world of Fintech to help define its future.

Panama is a divided country – geographically divided that is by the canal that defines it. To the north of the canal, Panama City is a thriving metropolis with a population of 4m and 100 banks. Cross the canal and you’ll find the south rapidly becomes dense, opaque jungle.  However, the country whose waterway acts as a gateway between east and west now has a bold vision to act as a financial conduit for Latin America.

Selified shares ID verification knowledge and expertise with Latin America

In September, the UK embassy in Panama organised a conference bringing key companies from the London scene to help bring relevant leanings – market dynamics and how London became a financial hub, the regulator’s role and how Fintech companies in London could work with Panama and Latin American companies for mutual benefit. Because of its experience in verifying people from anywhere in the world, Selified was a key participant at the event sharing insights, knowledge and expertise and in return forging valuable relationships to foster growth into the Latin American market.

Importance of effective KYC and ID verification in Panama’s Regtech vision

Panama’s vision started a few years back and what might have been setback actually proved a catalyst for change. In 2016 the publication of the Panama Papers risked eroding the country’s reputation. Hardly surprising when two terabytes of leaked data revealed a treasure trove of dirty secrets and network of shell companies almost as opaque as the jungle to the south of the canal.

All round the world a web of organised crime and tax evasion schemes were exposed, along with the thousands of government officials and senior executives. Amidst the ensuing revelations and resignations, the key message emerging was that anonymity stymies trust, hides the truth and denies justice.

Anonymity stymies trust at the individual level as well.  Transparency and effective KYC are critical in financial services.  After the bad publicity, Panama was determined to pursue its vision as a hub for the region and looked to the UK for examples of best practice and hence our involvement in the September conference.

Why Panama is well placed as Latin America’s Fintech hub

Panama is well placed because it is well placed because of the size of its market, its established trading and banking network, good infrastructure and access to talent.   Also the collaborative approach is being driven by its visionary leaders – all of which are key ingredients for a successful Fintech hub.

The Panama Canal linked East with West and through that the whole world economy benefited. If Panama becomes the Fintech hub to which it aspires, it too will benefit the whole region. UK Fintech companies will be able to use the hub as a bridgehead into Latin American. Selified is proud to be at the forefront.