The Fintech Finance 40: Mariano Belinky
Managing Partner, Santander InnoVentures
Currently ranked: 15
Previously ranked: 15
A hard-nosed attitude and a commitment to creating value guide Mariano Belinky in managing the Santander Group’s Santander InnoVentures. “We are very opinionated,” he asserts. “Also, we have to bring strategic value to the Santander Group, and there is a strong commitment to collaboration.” Opinions are by definition subject to debate, but Belinky is absolutely convinced that no bank is better than Santander at deriving strategic benefits from venture investing. “Seventy percent of our portfolio is actively engaged with Santander,” notes the former McKinsey & Co. principal.
Belinky took the helm of InnoVentures soon after its 2014 launch by Ana Botín, then CEO of Santander U.K. and now executive chairman of the Spain-based parent group. The value principle is evident in a project with U.S. online lender and InnoVentures portfolio company Kabbage to automate loan underwriting for small and medium-size businesses in the U.K. The Santander fund’s investments in Digital Asset Holdings, Elliptic, and Ripple have informed the parent bank’s blockchain decisions, including its participation in the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance; UBS’s utility settlement coin consortium; and Red Lyra, an effort by Spanish companies in banking and other business sectors to create an open platform for applications and services such as digital-identity management.
To the $100 million of capital provided for InnoVentures’ launch, Santander added $100 million in July 2016, which Botín said validated the fund’s “success in investing in disruptive new technologies that will help our transformation toward being the best bank for our customers.” According to the executive chairman, the U.K. base of the fund has “allowed it to benefit from London’s position as a fintech hub while talent-spotting our investments on a global basis.”
Belinky and his team regularly touch base with venture investors and entrepreneurs on the East and West coasts of the U.S. and are seeking Latin American opportunities and looking across Europe to Israel. InnoVentures has co-led a $6 million series A funding for Israeli social media payments application PayKey and invested in San Francisco–based supply chain finance platform Tradeshift. In July it announced strategic investments in predictive personalization technology start-up Pixoneye; mobile card and payments app Curve; and Gridspace, a provider of speech- and text-based analytics.
An Argentina native who did doctoral studies in artificial intelligence, Belinky says AI and machine learning are beginning to demonstrate potential in financial services. He says he looks for “AI with a purpose,” asking, “What business problem is it solving?”