Cristina Junqueira knew she had to make a change. She left management consulting to obtain an MBA at Northwestern University and ended up in banking, overseeing a credit card portfolio at Brazil’s Itaú Unibanco Holding SA. She rose for four years until 2013, when she quit, tired of selling people products that she said they didn’t really want.
Soon after, she met David Velez, a Colombian private equity executive who was trying to create a digital bank to compete with the giant moneylenders in Brazil. But he needed someone with inside knowledge.
“I knew the industry and I saw the perfect opportunity to prove them wrong, to build something that people really wanted,” she Junqueira said in a 2019 interview.
Eight years later, the 39-year-old Brazilian has just joined an extremely small group of self-made billionaire bankers.
Nu Holdings, the digital bank they created together, went public on Wednesday, valuing Junqueira’s stake at $ 1.1 billion. Neither she nor Nubank, as the company is known, wanted to comment for this story.
Self-made women make up less than 3% of the world’s 500 richest people, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. While there are some recent success stories, like that of Indian banker turned beauty mogul Falguni Nayar, the list is still mostly white and male.