Nubank adds stablecoin USDC, boosts crypto offering in Brazil

Brazil’s leading neobank Nubank has just made a groundbreaking move by introducing USDC, opening up significant possibilities for the stablecoin in Latin America and providing a significant avenue for the digital bank to enhance profitability among its vast customer base of 90 million individuals.

The Warren Buffett-backed digital lender announced a partnership this month with Circle, the company behind the stablecoin USDC. The fintech will extend USDC access to Nu Crypto customers in Brazil, as Nubank’s cryptocurrency division is known.

Despite the challenges faced by the broader cryptocurrency industry, stablecoins are still flourishing in Latin America. Nubank’s embrace of the dollar-pegged virtual currency gives it access to almost 85 million people in Brazil. Most of its customer base comes from its home country.

David Vélez, CEO at Nubank.

“We continue to see strong demand across Latin America for access to dollars, specifically in Brazil, which has emerged as a driving force for digital currency adoption in the region,” said Jeremy Allaire, CEO and Co-Founder at Circle. The partnership with Nubank is seen as a substantial accelerator in a region highly receptive to virtual currencies.

NuCrypto got off to a good start

Even as rising interest rates sent shockwaves through the cryptocurrency market, the digital bank’s introduction of Nu Cripto in 2022 has seen remarkable adoption from the outset. The company reached one million users just one month after launching in June.

Nubank’s adoption of USDC aligns with a trend seen in another major player in the region, Mercado Libre. In September, Mercado Pago, its fintech arm, partnered with Circle to introduce USDC in Chile. Both Nubank and Mercado Pago have shown a clear interest in the technology. Moreover, they appear to move in parallel directions regarding product strategy.

Both introduced crypto brokerage services last year. In addition, Mercado Libre introduced a virtual token in Brazil as part of a loyalty program back in 2022. Nubank replicated the decision later in 2023.

USDC, or USD Coin, is a tokenized form of the U.S. dollar. It aims to maintain a value closely tied to one U.S. dollar. As a stablecoin, USDC is engineered for price stability, offering a contrast to the volatile price movements associated with other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Stablecoins in Latin America

Amidst the challenges of the crypto winter, stablecoins are gaining traction in Latin America. Despite the decline in cryptocurrency prices from their 2021 highs, the stablecoin ecosystem is establishing connections with the real-world economy in Latin America at a relatively uncommon pace in developed economies.

In Latin America, cryptocurrencies frequently serve purposes beyond speculative investment. They address certain inefficiencies in the financial system. Stablecoins, in particular, are viewed by consumers as a haven against rampant inflation and unstable currencies. They have gained significant popularity in inflation-prone areas like Argentina and Venezuela. Citizens often use them to navigate local currency restrictions and facilitate cross-border transactions and remittances.

“Stablecoins are incredibly significant, especially in the context of navigating inflation without access to credit or financing in dollars,” Laura Angel, Marketing manager at Zondax, told Fintech Nexus. For Ernesto Calero, general manager at the Mexican Fintech Association, they have enabled people to use cryptocurrencies as a store of value amid the economic uncertainty, as well as to expedite cross-border remittances.

  • David Feliba

    David is a Latin American journalist. He reports regularly on the region for global news organizations such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Financial Times, and Americas Quarterly.

    He has worked for S&P Global Market Intelligence as a LatAm financial reporter and has built expertise on fintech and market trends in the region.

    He lives in Buenos Aires.