Thiago Cesar, CEO at Transfero Group, a pioneering Latin American company operating in the crypto space since 2015, believes in the power of crypto as a financial lifeline, setting his mission at Transfero to bridge the gap between developed and emerging economies and provide a crucial financial connection that empowers users to escape the hardships of inflation and capital controls.
In this exclusive interview with @MetaTalks, Thiago shares his insights on the current state of the crypto market, his optimistic vision for the future. Additionally, we'll delve into Transfero's efforts to leverage DeFi to create on-chain trading opportunities for exotic currency pairs, disrupting traditional FX trading and opening new horizons for the crypto world. So, sit back, relax, and join us as we dive into the world of Thiago Cesar and Transfero.
MetaTalks: Tiago, can you tell readers something about yourself personally, aside from the business style?
Thiago Cesar: Well, my name is Tiago. Born in Brazil, I got into crypto at the end of 2012. For us Latin Americans, it’s pretty easy to see why crypto can be a big game changer, especially when you look at our neighboring countries like Argentina or Venezuela. I majored Master in Economics and started [my company] Transfero in 2015. So this is a brief summary about myself.
MetaTalks: You mentioned Latin America, so people there know crypto could be a savior, right? They escape from inflation, from all the bad scenes we have from the government and the global government, et cetera. And you say you have been in crypto since the end of 2012. So you’ve seen a couple of bull runs and a couple of “crypto winters,” right?
Thiago: Yeah, I basically saw all the pumps and the dumps in the market. I saw all the craziness in 2017. I saw everything, I think.
MetaTalks: So, how do you feel about the current state of the crypto market? Are you pessimistic or optimistic? Do you have any plans for saving your holdings, or maybe you are dumping them right now? Just in general, could you tell us about the current state of your portfolio and your current vision of the market? It would be really interesting to know.
Thiago: Well, right now, I think, as everyone says, it’s the building time. Every bear market is quite a good time for building, and we are, I believe, getting to the end of the bear market. I do believe that 2024 will be the start of a new bull market. A lot of people said that high interest rates, FTX collapse – everything altogether would send us to the bottom-bottom, so maybe the bottom was already there. And from now on, I believe this is a good accumulation phase, and we can go for a new bull market quite soon, especially when one big central bank starts slashing interest rates. I think that will be the trigger for the new bull market.
MetaTalks: It’s interesting because our previous guest mentioned the Bitcoin halving as a potential trigger. There was actually a cool quote to negotiate and comment on right now. He said that because of the current crypto market, the new crypto enthusiasts are not so eager to jump in when they know that nothing is ‘going up.’ So, if you have $1 today, tomorrow, most likely, you will, hopefully, have just the same $1. But in the bull run, you can expect the yield basically from week to week. So the general audience who has never been in crypto got kind of the green light, right? But for you, you say this is more not about the general one, but for the central banks. Can you comment on that: do you think there are any similarities or doubts on this point?
Thiago: I think I can give you some sound real-world examples. During the bull market, money was cheap. So basically, a lot of crypto exchanges and crypto players were committing excesses. They were sponsoring everything, they were over-hiring, they were leaving money in bank accounts without checking it. But right now, the scenario is different, right? So VCs are more diligent, and everyone knows what the cost of money is. That’s why I believe the first trigger for a new bull market will be a slash in the interest rates, and I believe that’s coming soon.
We have to remember that next year is a political year: you have elections in some big countries, and for politicians to get voted, they need to spend money and show that the economy is good. So for them to show that the economy is good, they usually drop interest rates, they print, they spend, which is actually beneficial for risk assets.
But I do not disagree that halving helps. I mean, halving is actually one of the best fundamentals that we have. However, what we have seen in the past is that halving can help fuel something, but the results or price reflection happens a few months after the halving.
So I believe it’ll be a combination for sure, but for me, the main drivers will be government spending and interest rates being cut.
MetaTalks: That’s really interesting. Thank you for sharing. The next year is the political one, so you better save your Bitcoins for the next one, don’t sell them right now (once again, hashtag “non-financial advice”). As a part of our research here at Meta Talks, we love to talk to smart people to get to know as much as we can from different aspects of the business from different parts of the world. So I’m down to know what is Transfero because my colleagues share that you are building something huge. Would you be keen to share with us some insights about this one?
Thiago: Sure. So we are a Latin American company. We started back in 2015 as a Brazilian crypto company. Our main, I would say, product in the market is that we issued the Brazilian stablecoin. It’s called the BRZ. And we also offer fiat on- and off-ramps for international exchanges that wanna operate out of Brazil and Argentina.
For example, ByBit uses Transfero in Brazil for on- and off-ramps. We used to work closely with FTX as well, but then, of course, they blew up. Crypto.com had BRZ, our stable coin, on their books. Basically, I believe that the market is now reorganizing, but that’s what Transfero is known for – connecting international markets to Brazil and Argentina.
Most people don’t know that, but in markets like Brazil and Argentina, you cannot deal in US dollars or carry Euros or any other currency freely. So for an international exchange or international business to penetrate the Latin American markets, they need a local payment infrastructure. Otherwise, users will not be able to deposit money to the exchange or withdraw money from there, and they cannot do it via cards.
Many people ask me if they have a MasterCard or Visa card, they could basically on-ramp. No, they can’t. It’s extremely costly for Latin Americans. This is why a local solution is essential for granting financial access.
MetaTalks: All right, I think we can lead from here all the way to the mission of the project. You mentioned a couple of times that you’re kind of a local brand that has been on the market since 2015, but have you had a chance to go to the global ones? Does your mission actually connect with the international kind of expenditure?
Thiago: Our thesis is behind emerging markets. So we are in Brazil, we are in Argentina, we are in Chile. We are soon expanding to Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. We do have an entity out of Switzerland. That’s where a lot of our contracts are signed. But we don’t aim to compete in the developed world because we found the pain point. What is the pain point? Capital controls, high inflation. So that’s why our goal is to provide a financial connection between the developed world and emerging markets, Latin America, in that case.
Our company is actually international. We are just not competing with global companies but enabling them to come to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and other countries.
MetaTalks: Oh yeah. Got it. I wanna jump right now to the killing feature and try to make a connection with the slogan of your company, which sounds like “Be free, be crypto.” Do you think the world, humanity, actually relies on crypto in a way? I mean, everyone wants to be free, right? I’m not talking about the American dream here, just for the general audience, especially the countries with high inflation; they want to be free. They don’t want their money to be burned overnight. So is it just a sound trick, or does it really express your personal beliefs, your vision: to be free, to be crypto – that would be really interesting to know.
Thiago: Yes, we definitely mean that. In our company, we are all crypto guys. We started it in 2015. And if you look at Argentina, for example, it’s a country where — not many people know, but — every Argentinian can only buy up to $200 a month legally. So it means that they either use that $200 allowance or sit with local currency in their hands, suffering more than a hundred percent inflation a year. They need alternatives to survive, and crypto has shown as proven to be one of the best alternatives in that scenario. Argentinians are a hundred percent integrated, for example, with USDT, USDC; they are very, very savvy in exchanging local currency, even cash, I mean, paper money, to USDT or USDC because they need to protect their wealth.
Brazil is not as severe, but it also faces a certain degree of capital controls and instability, of course. So crypto makes a lot of sense for those jurisdictions. Maybe it doesn’t make that much sense if you are from the UK or the US, where everything seems to be more stable. But for countries where you have a change in the official currency every 20 or 30 years, you can have rampant inflation rates and you have capital controls; crypto makes a lot of sense and is the only alternative today.
MetaTalks: While we’re speaking, I made a parallel; you reminded me of a country called El Salvador. These guys kind of gave the green light for a Bitcoin. So do you think Latin American governments can help in any way to general markets, or it will be rather an SEC-like way, you know, like in the US? Because their case study with Ripple Report taught us a lot. So how do you feel about the connection, the regulators, and all that kind of stuff?
Thiago: Well, I guess it comes to how power is held in a specific country. So you have El Salvador, which has power concentrated on a very pro-Bitcoin person. The president of El Salvador is very bullish on Bitcoin. He’s a very innovative guy, and he does hold a lot of power in the country. So he can actually pass legislation or acts that can help the adoption of Bitcoin.
And if you think about El Salvador, it’s one of the poorest countries in Latin America, right? How would those guys be competitive in an international scenario? I think the move they made in order to adopt Bitcoin was one of the smartest moves that a Latin American country could make because they will attract capital into the country. They will attract companies, they will attract investors, and they will attract good brains into the country. So that was a very well-played move by El Salvador.
When you go to Brazil, Mexico, or Argentina, we’re talking about bigger countries with a larger population and also with a different political structure. There you have very strong Congresses and a lot of political opinions, in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico specifically. And they’re very protective of their own currencies and financial systems. So I don’t see Brazil, Argentina, or Mexico even moving in a direction where they will embrace Bitcoin as El Salvador did because they are just scared of losing control over the 180-200 million population, depending on the country.
In the case of El Salvador, you have a much smaller country, so I think it’s much easier for them to implement such kinds of things. When you go to other countries in Latin America, it’s a bigger challenge, but that would be an amazing move. I mean, it would attract capital and talent – the best would go to Latin America. So I really hope they change their minds at a certain point.
MetaTalks: Well, speaking about the government and the challenges, as CEO of the leading company, what do you think are the current challenges for Transfero? I mean, taking into account all the legislation, the political aspects we mentioned here, and the Bitcoin halving, what do you feel could pretend you from going where you want to go? What are the challenges and disadvantages you’re trying to overcome? Because we always learn from problems, right? So it’s really nice to get to know how the big guys are trying to make their roadmap if we can put it this way.
Thiago: Our biggest, let’s say, “worry” was that Latin American countries would follow what the US was doing: if the local SECs in Brazil or Argentina started copying the decisions of the American SEC. But we verified that it actually didn’t happen. Quite the opposite, the regulators, especially in Brazil, are following their own path, and they’re being quite pro-innovative to a certain extent. So I don’t see the American scenario being replicated, at least in Brazil and Argentina.
So for us, that was our biggest fear that the global crackdown on crypto would also translate into emerging markets. But we don’t see that happening at the moment.
Of course, we also see an opportunity when there is a problem, right? And right now, a lot of companies don’t want to be in the United States anymore. You have traditional household names like Coinbase who were very proud of saying, “Hey, we work with the regulators in the US, we are an American company, we wanna serve American citizens.” And now they actually got stabbed in the back. And they said, “Okay, we have to look at alternatives, where to go.” And I think countries that can position themselves as a good jurisdiction to receive those international companies will benefit from it.
So I hope Brazil will present itself as a good jurisdiction. I am quite sure that Coinbase will end up incorporating a local structure in Brazil, for example, and the same may be in Argentina in the future. So what we see as a problem globally might become an opportunity locally in those emerging markets.
MetaTalks: Can we kind of jump to the general audience now? Because I know a lot of guys who are like drop hunters; they’re just students and wanna kind of gain a passive income. That’s why every time I ask whether the brands have any referral or ambassador programs – anything like a low entry aspect risk to risk-free basically, that would help promote your project and get some cash at the end of the month or the end of the year. Do you have any incentives of that kind in Transfero to support the use of your product?
Thiago: That’s something we are launching quite soon, but it’s not based on any airdrop. It’s actually very, very different. As you know, we have a Brazilian stablecoin, pegged one-to-one with a local Brazilian currency. And one of the advantages of having a stablecoin that is pegged to an emerging market currency is that we have very high interest rates in Brazil; they are now around 10 to 12% a year. So we are planning — almost launching actually — a product where holders of BRZ will be able to stake their tokens and benefit from that: from those high interest rates that we have in Brazil. So it’s basically real-world assets generating yields.
Once that product is done, you can do it via DeFi, of course; you lock your BRZ, and you get 10-12 percent a year, depending on the interest rate at the moment – it’s a stable income, and you’re not incurring any additional risk. So it’s not really an airdrop, nor are we minting new tokens; it’s just based on the interest rates. That’s one thing that we’re going to launch for sure.
MetaTalks: Can we jump now all the way to social media? Because I know that many brands hesitate to promote their products on Meta on Instagram, so they choose a safer way like Telegram or Twitter. So how do you do these things, guys? How is it in Latin America? How do you promote the brands? What are the biggest channels for you? Is it like word of mouth, incentive programs, or some giveaways (not to say I think you have any in Transfero, but anyway)? It would be really cool to know about the channels and tools you guys use most.
Thiago: For sure. Specifically, in Brazil, Facebook was blocking anything crypto-related. So it was pretty hard actually to gain any traction via digital. However, one method that works quite well in Brazil right now is partnering up with local influencers. Because you have to think that in Brazil and in Argentina, for example, you have a language barrier, right? So everything has to be targeted in Portuguese or Spanish because people want to consume content in those languages in those countries.
We are finding that the local influencers play a very important role in that education/promotion because they speak the local language and have a big reach. And that’s how we found the best way actually to grow any business activity related to crypto. Facebook not that much. Instagram also blocks a lot of crypto words. They’re like Brazilian and Argentinian controllers, let’s say. They block a lot of crypto ads. So we resort to the influencers themselves.
MetaTalks: I know a lot of guys from the other part of the world, like India and Indonesia, are listening to us right now or, perhaps, would be reading a text version. Do you think the global crypto audience has something in common? I mean, can you differentiate the general target audience in Brazil and make an assumption on how it differs from the other guys in the world who are using the same technology, DeFi yields, transfero.com, perhaps? So do you think we have to move in a way for that hashtag message option to educate with some common, not English even, but the crypto language, so everyone would understand how to use that particular setting or how to use that particular channel or DeFi universe products?
Thiago: One thing that I see happening quite soon, and it may be a bit of a long shot, but when it comes to a universal language, it is definitely English, right? And then it just comes down to the barrier that each country has to adopt it.
But when you think about FX trading on-chain or even on centralized exchanges, if you go to TradFi, a lot of trades that are being done, for example, between Brazil and, let’s say, India, they have to go from the local currency, Brazilian real, then to the US dollar, then to the Indian rupee. And that’s actually something we are trying to disrupt.
I really believe that in the near future, you will have on DeFi exotic currencies trading against each other instead of going through the US dollar. So you would have a Brazilian real versus Indian rupee pair, and you can benefit from arbitrage in those markets because you have different opening times and different demands for each currency. And that can become quite a big vertical for trading, I think. If anyone of our auditory is an active currency trader, there are a lot of opportunities between exotic pairs.
It’s already happening between BRZ and lira, for example – the Turkish lira versus the Brazilian real – and that can only be made via DeFi. You cannot do that through the TradFi market. So that will be one of the most groundbreaking, I would say, features of crypto within the next few months.