Gabriela Estrada, Vexi: Bringing Credit to the Underbanked in Mexico, Ep 104

Only one in ten adults in Mexico have access to a formal credit card, according to Gabriela Estrada. That’s more than 70 million people that are not able to build a credit history. As cofounder and CFO of Vexi, Gabriela is on a mission to make credit accessible to Mexico’s underbanked population. 

Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, Gabriela was at the peak of her career at Citibanamex in Mexico City when she decided the corporate world wasn’t for her. She was the only female director as well as the youngest among her peers by 10 to 15 years. After leaving the bank, her friend convinced her to cofound Vexi with him, where she quickly fell in love with the power of impacting her community through fintech.

I sit down with Gabriela to talk about her experience as a woman in finance in Mexico and some of the challenges she now faces as a female founder when seeking investment. We also discuss why she decided to tackle financial inclusion and how Vexi is helping increase financial literacy in Mexico.

Vexi’s client base

Gabriela discovered that Vexi was a way of helping the local community by leveraging her extensive experience in finance. She explains that, although Vexi’s clients come from diverse backgrounds, they have two common denominators: resilience and loyalty. These individuals are used to rejection from traditional financial institutions. When they find a bank that believes in them, they want to repay that trust. 

Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about how Vexi is helping make credit accessible to underserved Mexicans. 

Credit vs. debit

Debit cards are a huge success in regions like Europe. However, Gabriela explains that in Latin America the financial needs are different and the real game-changers are credit cards. However, finding a way to underwrite people that have never been underwritten before can be a daunting task. Gabriela explains that it requires a lot of creativity to be able to change the lives of the underbanked.

Learn more about how gaining access to credit can change the lives of Latin Americans on this episode of Crossing Borders.

The risk bias in venture capital

As a female founder, Gabriela explains that she gets asked weird questions when raising money, making it difficult to build relationships with male venture capitalists. It took her some time to realize that investors weren’t asking her about the risks of the business because she was CFO of the company. It was because of her gender.

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn about how Gabriela learned to turn those questions into opportunities

Gabriela Estrada took a leap of faith when she left her job at one of the largest banks in Mexico. Since then, she has been using her knowledge to help thousands of people gain access to credit with Vexi. Her story is an example for women to continue to break the glass ceiling.  

Outline of this episode:

  • [1:17] – About Vexi and Gabriela
  • [3:25] – On Vexi’s client base
  • [7:54] – From Chihuahua to chilanga
  • [9:32] – Falling in love with entrepreneurship
  • [12:11] – Being a woman in finance in Mexico
  • [13:50] – Lessons learned from working in banks
  • [15:56] – Reaction from friends and family
  • [17:39] – Choosing Vexi and financial inclusion
  • [19:34] – Credit vs. debit
  • [22:24] – Avoiding loan sharks
  • [24:01] – Tackling financial illiteracy
  • [25:50] – Raising money as a female founder
  • [29:45] – Recommendations on books, blogs, or podcasts
  • [30:56] – Advice on taking the leap 
  • [32:02] – What’s next for Vexi?

Resources & people mentioned

Nathan Lustig is the managing partner at Magma Partners, a seed-stage venture capital fund based in Latin America and the United States.

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