Leading The Global Fintech Charge

How Anabel Perez is helping to transform international payments systems

How Anabel Perez is helping to transform international payments systems, accelerate bank transactions, and incorporate immigrants into the financial system

By Doreen Hemlock

With her shoulder-length bob hairstyle and shiny lipstick, Anabel Perez does not look like your typical tech CEO. Yet the Latina banker-turned-entrepreneur is shaking up the payments industry, earning global accolades and helping make Miami a center for financial technology – AKA fintech.

Perez started out nearly 20 years ago with a dream: to deploy tech to banks to offer services more broadly, especially to the tens of millions of residents in Latin America with no bank accounts. In 2007, she co-founded NovoPayment in Miami for easy access across the Americas, likening her work to trekking through a jungle, machete in hand, slashing away obstacles to modern banking.

Today, her pioneering venture offers a banking-as-a-service platform, operating in 15 countries and employing some 400 people. It links banks to software companies specialized in such tasks as opening a bank account online. And it provides its own services, like compliance with banking laws in different nations.

Female-led companies receive less than three percent of venture capital worldwide, yet Perez last year managed to secure $19 million in funding for NovoPayment. That helped her earn “High Commendation” at the 2022 Banking Tech Awards in London, the latest of her CEO awards worldwide. And Perez says she’s just getting started, with fintech innovation still in its infancy.

“The financial payments system across the world is cracking, because it was developed with different generations of technology, and they’re being connected in ways that don’t fulfill end-customer demand for availability and accessibility anytime, anywhere,” Perez says. “For example, when you download the app for your bank and want to make a deposit to pay your credit card, it takes two days. That’s because the connecting systems don’t speak to each other in real-time.”

Perez’s success underscores Miami’s rise as a tech hub, especially for Latin America and fintech. The just-released 2023 Global Start-up Ecosystem Report shows Miami jumped 10 spots to rank for the first time among the world’s top 25 hubs for emerging companies. That’s due partly to growing international links, diversity, and female leadership, analysts say. Last year, when South Florida reaped a record $5 billion-plus in venture capital, fintech received the largest share of that cash, says industry tracker Pitchbook.


The global fintech industry spans a wide range of companies and organizations, from those focused on banks like NovoPayment, to those helping immigrants send money back home, to those helping employers pay remote workers around the word. Some groups now help founders and funders unite.

The word was hardly in use when longtime banker Perez and fellow Venezuelan finance executive Oscar Garcia Mendoza co-founded their venture 16 years ago as a tech enabler. Back then, the duo saw opportunity in tools such as pre-paid debit cards, which could help Latin Americans slash reliance on cash as a form of payment.

Over time, as tech tools evolved, their concept did too. Now, they aim to digitize infrastructure for payments across the Americas. NovoPayment’s platform offers access to cloud-based software, interfaces, and services through subscriptions. It works not only with traditional banks or newer online ones but with payment-card companies like Visa and Mastercard, payroll processers, retailers, remittance firms, and other businesses, serving more than 10,000 corporate customers. In the U.S., for instance, it helps credit unions, many at risk because of banking consolidation, “to reach new audiences in ways they couldn’t before,” Perez says. It lets those small rivals add services by subscription without making big outlays to buy the software outright or hire lots of in-house staff, she says.


For Perez, access to capital – not technology – has been the biggest challenge. As a Latina entrepreneur in Miami in the 2000s and 2010s, she found few paths to major funding. “A friend of mine in Silicon Valley told me: VC for a fintech in Miami led by a woman? Almost impossible,” she recalls. Still, she forged on. By steadily networking in Miami’s fast-growing tech community, especially with respected accelerators Endeavor and TheVentureCity, both led by women, she scored Series A funding last year from a Miami group also led by a woman, Fuel Venture Capital. That group’s managing partner, Vietnam-born Maggie Vo, arranged the $19 million deal, with co-investors IDC Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst, IDB Lab, and Visa’s venture arm – all groups active in Miami who had known Perez for years.

“Our funding round was the largest for a fintech with a female CEO at that time,
a JPMorgan report said. I think it’s still the largest one, and that’s a shame,” says Perez. While she celebrates women helping women, Perez wishes funding were more accessible to everyone from groups everywhere. 

Vo says she backs NovoPayment because of “massive potential” in fintech. “Incumbent banks can no longer delay digital transformation, and non-financial companies [including retailers] are forced to incorporate financial services into their businesses,” she says. And she applauds “trailblazing” Perez for her two-decade experience in banking and tech, her “inclusive” leadership style, and her passion to build. 

“Few companies have the capabilities, breadth, and depth of services NovoPayment offers,” says Vo, mentioning the venture’s multi-language and multi-currency strength, “leaving NovoPayment in a unique position to become the dominant player in fintech infrastructure in the Americas.” 


The pandemic accelerated the shift to digital finance, and dozens of fintechs have followed Perez into Miami in recent years, offering a wide range of services both for banks, immigrants, and employers. 

One newcomer from Europe: Majority, which helps migrants obtain a bank account, debit card, and no-fee international cash transfers. Members pay monthly fees staring at $6 in the U.S. 

“We are living in a new era of immigration, with 300 million migrants around the world,” including 50 million first-generation immigrants in the U.S., says Majority’s CEO Magnus Larsson. Majority registers members in the U.S. with “only a government-issued ID from any country and proof of a U.S. address, such as a utility bill.” Members need not show a U.S. government-issued Social Security or taxpayer ID number, “allowing many migrants to open a bank account for the first time in their lives.” 

Majority launched in Sweden in 2019 and then set up in two key U.S. cities for immigrants: Miami, which has the largest share of foreign-born residents of any major U.S. metro area, and Houston, which hosts the most diverse migrant population coming from Mexico, India, Vietnam, Nigeria, and beyond. 

Today, Majority has some 20 employees in greater Miami and plans to expand, thanks to $9.75 million in new Series B funding announced in June. That cash brings its total funding to $86 million. The infusion should also help grow its advisor program – including many immigrants – who assist Majority members as they open an account and settle into life in the United States, says Larsson. 

Meanwhile, two Colombian entrepreneurs launched Miami startup Ontop in 2020 to help companies pay employees or contractors overseas. Their payroll platform handles such complexities as invoices, taxes, cash transfers, and compliance with local regulations in different nations, charging fees for each transaction. It works directly with NovoPayment to obtain bank cards from Visa and others in varied nations, says Julian Torres, co-founder and chief operating officer. “We’re tapping important market trends: the explosion in remote work since COVID, rising costs for healthcare and benefits in the U.S., and cash-flow pressures on companies from inflation,” he says. 

Ontop now employs some 20 people in Miami out of some 35 across the U.S., plus 80 in Colombia and others in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. It helps employers transfer hundreds of millions of dollars yearly to workers in some 40 nations, with invoices largely handled in English. Most clients are U.S. or European companies sending payments mainly to software developers and other information-tech personnel in emerging markets, where talent is abundant and costs lower than in North America or Europe, says Torres. 

“When we launched, Ontop served mainly venture capital-based startups, but now we’re onboarding more multinationals and public companies in the enterprise market,” says Torres. “Our software differentiates us, because we comply rigorously with local laws both in labor and finance.” He says the platform can save companies up to 15 percent on cross-border payments because of better exchange rates and smaller outlays on administration and other expenses. 

So far, Ontop has raised roughly $35 million in funding from such investors
as Tiger Global, Point72 Ventures, and Softbank’s SB Opportunity Fund. It’s also worked with Silicon Valley’s accelerator YCombinator and earned a spot on Endeavor’s Outliers list as one of that group’s top performers. 

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