Alza Founder Jose Arturo Villanueva
Alza Founder Jose Arturo Villanueva Alza

Mexican-American tech entrepreneur Jose Arturo Villanueva moved to the U.S. at the age of six from his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, and witnessed firsthand some of the predatory financial services that impact Latinos in the country. After attending college and stints at the World Bank and Stripe, he launched Alza, a new banking platform tailored for Latinos living in the U.S.

"I grew up in South Texas and I remember seeing the predatory practices there anywhere you went," Villanueva told the Latin Times. "Alza was created with the idea that banking should be an enabler of growth."

Alza is a digital banking platform that offers an FDIC-insured checking account, debit card, peer-to-peer payments and cross-border remittances to over 20 Latin American countries.

The app also offers other features to ensure it is well-tailored for the needs of Latinos. For example, when registering with Alza, users can use a variety of documents from Latin American countries to verify their identity. The app also provides bilingual customer service without having to be transferred to another customer support agent, and it features a bilingual app interface.

"We always joke about 'press two for Spanish,' and no one picks up on the other end, but if they do, people might not get service as well as somebody in the English queue," said Villanueva.

Alza platfrom
Alza platform. Alza

For Villanueva, making these product additions was necessary to help Latinos adapt to living in the U.S., and he believes it is also part of the reason why many are ditching traditional banks and subscribing to neobanks and other fintech platforms.

"When individuals begin a new life in the US, they need a place to store money and send that money back home. What Alza aims to do is simplify that friction," said Villanueva. "You shouldn't need multiple accounts; [that] eventually slows down the entrance and participation in the US economy."

According to Brookings, a nonprofit research institute, Latinos are steadily adopting fintech technologies at faster rates than other demographics. According to one survey, Hispanic families often feel left out and distrustful of the U.S. financial system, and many have turned to fintechs because they usually offer lower entry fees and simpler barriers.

The popularization of fintech among Latinos in the U.S. and Latin America has resulted in an array of new platforms, many of which have raised significant funding. Fintech companies albo and Nova Credit, which offer services to Latinos, have recently raised funding north of $40 million each.

In 2021, Alza secured $6.6 million in funding from venture capital firm Thrive Capital and several angel investors. According to Villanueva, Alza has users across all 50 states. He did not disclose the total number of users.

"We want to continue building the tools that our users really need and really want," Villanueva told the Latin Times. "Our journey is dictated by the requests of the people who are using Alza, so we're excited to continue building world-class products for them."

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