Madeleine Tapia: Innovator of Digital Banking for Unbanked Hispanics

In Game Changers 18 by Mary KurekLeave a Comment

Madeleine Tapia

Ms. Tapia has been an entrepreneur for most of her life. She is the founder of Alterna Card Services, Inc., and created and developed the “Alterna” marketing program for the Hispanic unbanked and money transfer markets. She also was one of the founders of Teletienda Network, Inc., now known as MercadoVisions an innovative in-store community TV network for Hispanic retailers to support the Alterna program and promote programs to improve the lives of the U.S. Latino communities through its media network. She led the negotiations and managed strategic relationships to bring leveraged coverage through relationships such as CardMarte, MetaBank, First Data, Western Union, Sky Cable de Mexico/Prepago USA and Telemundo for digital content. She contracted with 9 large distributors for Alterna to include the Washington Farm Bureau and the Catholic Diocese of Puerto Rico. She also developed Alterna’s process patent for Card Registration for immigrants which is being represented by Wilson, Sonsini, et al.

Ms. Tapia founded Global Payment Solutions, LLC (“GPS”) in 1996, and has worked in emerging payment technologies for the last 19 years. Under Ms. Tapia, GPS developed relationships with both government and corporate clients. In her capacity with GPS,
which is an electronic payment processing (EFT/ACH) sales and marketing company, Ms. Tapia succeeded in bringing such accounts as Lockheed Martin IMS, EDS, and, ACS to the company. Ms. Tapia has represented GPS on the NACHA’s Electronic Check Council, which is responsible for setting regulatory guidelines for the electronic payments industry.

Ms. Tapia worked in the legal field for 15 years as a paralegal/legal secretary, specializing in intellectual property and issues relating to the Hispanic community in California. She also served as administrative clerk/judicial assistant for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. She also created and owned French Basque restaurants and delicatessens throughout the San Francisco Bay Area such as the infamous Basque Hotel and Restaurant.

Ms. Tapia created a 501(c)(3) in 1982 called Save Our Children of which the mission was to bring awareness to communities nationwide about Child Sexual Abuse. It became a priority project with the California Jaycees and then the National Jaycees. Ms. Tapia turned her non-profit over to her daughter, Mandy Tapia, in 2015 and she changed the name to ASK-Now (Autism Spectrum Knowledge Now) whose mission is to assist children on the spectrum and their families and to incorporate Equine Facilitated Learning as a therapy program for these children. Ms. Tapia is a board member and active advocate for ASK-Now.

Q & A with Madeleine:

Tapia and Alterna Team at NCLR conference in Puerto Rico

Q:  What was the reason for developing the Alterna Card? 

A:  I initially founded this company because I had created a 501 c (3) non-profit call Save Our Children for the purpose of bringing awareness nationwide concerning child sexual abuse.  I worked with both the California Jaycees and U.S. Jaycees to accomplish.  What I found was how difficult it was to raise money to do the good works that were needed.  Since I had been an entrepreneur for most of my life I decided to start a social impact company that would make enough money to support the foundation.  And because both parents were Hispanic, (my father was an immigrant from Mexico) Alterna, with it much-needed products and services turned out to be the perfect way to accomplish this dream.  I turned my foundation over to my youngest daughter and she has brought awareness to communities in California regarding the needs of children on the Autism Spectrum and, together with my oldest daughter, we have developed an Equine Facilitated Learning program that my oldest daughter runs.

Q:  How did you start creating the financial partnerships/relationships you’d need to make this happen?  Who was the first partner?

A:  Our First Distribution Partner was the Washington Farm Bureau.  They service over 30,000 farms in Washington State and most of them have migrant workers.  The second was the Catholic Diocese of Puerto Rico.  Over 1/3 of the population in Puerto Rico is unbanked. With regard to financial partners, our shareholders are family, friends, and angel investors

Q:  There were bound to have been some challenges in launching something with a non-native American population.  What were those challenges and how have you been overcoming them?  

A:  The biggest challenge is that many of the U.S. Hispanic immigrants do not trust banks and many are working under ITIN numbers so they do not have an SSN to open bank accounts or qualify for credit cards.   In order to overcome this challenge, we created a prepaid debit card program with Mastercard that allows them to qualify for the card by showing their ITIN number or two government-issued photo IDs from their company.  To overcome the trust issues, we have partnered with organizations that have a close relationship with this community, such as employers, Catholic Diocese, and, non-profits that are providing free services to this community.  We call them our “Trusted Partners.”  We know that once they get the card, they will use it not only for purchasing power in the U.S. but as a safe, inexpensive, and convenient way for them to transfer money to their loved ones in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Ecuador by enrolling them for a Mastercard in their country of origin.   We, in turn, share the profits with our Trusted Partners assisting them to continue the good works they are doing.

Q:  Are there other doors that the success of the card might open? 

A:  Yes, we can begin marketing directly to the people in Mexico that are unbanked which is over 70% of the population.  In the U.S., we can begin marketing the product to other immigrant groups in the U.S. that also need this type of financial instrument. Could this solve other problems?  Yes, we have currently been asked to present the program to mayors of major cities to promote the card as a way for women who are running away from spousal abuse and traffickers as a way for them to have a safe way for the agencies that are assisting them to transfer money to them.

Q:  What’s the next step in scaling Alterna Card?  

A:  Rolling out the program through our existing distribution channels, beginning our retail program, and bringing in additional capital for growth.

Madeleine’s Networking Interests:

  • Employers of U.S. Latino workers
  • Non-profits that assist the U.S. Latino immigrants
  • Investors interested in investing in a social impact company that focuses on solving a problem for specialized populations that impacts economies




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