Blockchain payments firm Ripple has begun its South America expansion by launching operations in Brazil.

To carry out the initiative, Ripple has appointed fintech entrepreneur Luiz Antonio Sacco as managing director for South America.

Currently, various financial institutions and remittance firms in Brazil use the firm’s blockchain network RippleNet.

These firms include Santander Brazil, BeeTech, and Banco Rendimento.

Ripple is also working with the University of São Paulo (USP) and Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) to facilitate academic research in law, business and engineering, among others.

Sacco noted: “We believe that academic institutions will play a key role driving the blockchain industry forward.

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“USP and FGV are innovative, forward-thinking institutions that are investing in blockchain research to explore new use cases and help prepare students for future jobs in this space.”

This year, Ripple intends to increase the number of its customers in Brazil and also aims to grow the team in the region.

The firm eventually plans to expand into Chile, Peru and Argentina.

Ripple SVP of global operations Eric van Miltenburg said: “In January, Ripple surpassed 200 customers on RippleNet.

“The company is experiencing rapid customer growth across all markets, and is launching in Brazil in response to high customer demand in South America.”