Puerto Rico is unique. It does not immediately spring to mind as a potential global financial hub. But Puerto Rican-based Zenus Bank is making waves and as founder Mushegh Tovmasyan tells RBI, its first three years track record demonstrates how it is perfectly placed to boost financial inclusion for consumers in LatAm.
Puerto Rico’s Caribbean location means it’s perfectly placed to potentially rival international money centres such as Singapore, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. At first glance, that may appear little more than an exaggerated claim from the local inward investment agency, but there is an argument here.
As a commonwealth country under the US’ jurisdiction, Puerto Rico operates in US dollars (USD). This means that Puerto Rico can offer USD to the rest of the world, so that people can take advantage of the currency’s stability.
Strategically speaking, the island is in the perfect location as it is a bridge between the US and Latin America. Then there is the question of language. The vast majority of the island is bilingual in both English and Spanish – the most spoken and the fourth most spoken languages respectively. This means that Puerto Rico can open the doors for people in LatAm to access a stable currency such as USD.
In 2019, Mushegh Tovmasyan founded Zenus Bank, the very first ever Puerto Rican internationally licenced bank. Based in Puerto Rico and in partnership with Microsoft and Visa, it exports and provides a USD-based digital bank available to citizens in over 150 countries.
Since then, it has grown into a global digital bank, with operations across four countries. It has clients using its apps in more than 90 countries, reaping the benefits of its US bank accounts.
And so Zenus Bank makes it easy and safe for clients to access, send, receive and store money in the US from anywhere globally. The Zenus pitch gets better- it gives customers in Latin American countries access to a US bank account without requiring US residency, providing access to the US dollar in developing countries. Then there are key factors such as access to the US market and credit rating.
Empowering people via borderless banking
The end result is the promotion of financial inclusion to the developing world. Zenus also operates a fractional reserve bank which is increasingly important in the current global recession. It means that customers in LatAm have a secure alternative to holding their money in local currencies which may fluctuate and be subject to volatile currency changes depending on political, economic, and other external events.
For Tovmasyan, the vision is to create a world where physical borders don’t limit the financial services consumers have access to. And his mission is to continue growing a financial institution that gives people and businesses across the world access to the security, freedom and convenience of US banking.
Tovmasyan is a fintech entrepreneur and a veteran of the online trading industry. His CV boasts C-Level management experience with regulated financial services companies in the US, UK, UAE, Germany, Switzerland, Cyprus, Armenia, Japan and New Zealand.
He also has a track record of forging strategic alliances across industries and developing new business opportunities. In addition, he has been involved in several traditional M&A transactions on both sides of the table.
And he is the principal behind seed & venture capital firm Forexify most recently exiting from two successful ventures – Divisa Capital and Equiti Group to focus full-time on Zenus Bank.
Zenus Bank 2022 highlights
Tovmasyan tells RBI that 2022 marked Zenus’ most successful year to date. Notwithstanding challenging economic conditions and geopolitical upheaval, Zenus remains committed to promoting banking beyond borders. Zenus customers have now opened accounts in some 96 countries.
“We are focused on our mission to build a cutting-edge digital banking infrastructure for individuals and businesses and establish ourselves as the sponsor bank for global brands and fintechs.”
Zenus announced partnerships with Microsoft, HSO and Finxact in 2022. Tovmasyan says that this demonstrates its drive to deliver the best possible experience for clients.
By partnering with Finxact, Zenus benefits from a high-performance, highly scalable, real-time position-keeping model to deliver on its aims of offering a secure, transparent and scalable international bank. The partnership is vital in providing financial inclusion to millions of people, businesses and organisations by operating in developing countries as well as employees working for globally-oriented firms.
In addition, the deal lays the foundation for world-class digital infrastructure, building on existing partnerships with infrastructure provider Microsoft.
“Working with brands of this renown will support our ambitious growth plans to become world leaders in the industry.”
In addition to launching a new website, latest product highlights included the roll out of virtual Visa debit cards. In addition, Zenus continues to grow its correspondent banking network as part of its aim to be a truly global digital bank.
Now Zenus is working to launch a B2B offering to help SME businesses in developing countries pay their staff instantly without the delay or charges associated with local banks and the difficulties that can come when trying to grow a business, look after one’s money or form secure payment channels with export partners. Zenus Bank solves this by offering institutional FX rates and limitless ACH payments and wire transfers.
“Most of the population faces currency challenges but they are very digitally friendly. Our first target audience is Latin America and especially South America but we are quickly looking to expand past that,” concludes Tovmasyan.