Australia is aiming for recognition as the world’s new financial technology (fintech) hub, with a burgeoning start-up community leading the charge.

The Australian federal government has established an expert advisory group on fintech, following a joint announcement by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison. “Although Australia is a leading financial services market in the region, the sector is becoming increasingly globalised and exposed to technological disruption. Many traditional financial products are being disrupted by the fintech sector, which is well positioned to become a leading player in the Asia-Pacific.”

The council will be chaired by Stone & Chalk chairman and Westpac director Craig Dunn, with others on the council including H2 Ventures co-founder Ben Heap, Veda CEO Nerida Caesar and Coinjar co-founder Asher Tan.

The government focus on fintech helps validate the rapid growth in the sector, according to Stone & Chalk CEO Alex Scandurra. He told StartupSmart: “We have succeeded in moving fintech closer to the heart of the nation’s economic agenda. We look forward to continuing our work with government and all other stakeholders in the ecosystem to deliver these outcomes.” Watch out for our exclusive interview with Alex Scandurra, coming soon.

Australian fintech start-ups raised 14 per cent of the almost one billion dollars of investment raised by fintech around the world in December 2015. Recognising the rising talent, UK Trade & Investment had invited 10 promising Australian fintech start-ups to London in September to promote it as a place for fintech businesses, and the Australian government is now under pressure to grow, attract and retain intellectual capital in the sector.

A vocal fintech community, including 32 fintech incubators, venture capital funds and start-ups, led calls for the sector to receive special attention in Australia’s Federal Government’s recent ‘Innovation Statement’. The plan will see the government spend almost $1.1 billion in the next four years to promote business-based research, development and innovation. The plan aims to transition Australia away from its mining boom economy, and revolves around strengthening ties between the business community, universities and scientific institutions. A $200 million innovation fund will co-invest in businesses that develop technology from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Australian universities. Other factors include $106 million in tax incentives for early stage investors in start-up businesses.

Turnbull said: “Our innovation agenda is going to help create the modern, dynamic 21st century economy Australia needs.”

The state of New South Wales is a key driver for fintech, with Sydney the home to major start-up hubs including Tyro FinTech Hub and Stone & Chalk, as well as the monthly Sydney FinTech Meetup, a group specifically targeted at the growing fintech startup community. In nearby Wollongong, iAccelerate is a University of Wollongong (UOW) business incubator programme aimed to help entrepreneurs to build and grow businesses.

Traditional major players are jumping on the fintech innovation wagon, too. Big bank Westpac has created a $50 million fund (Re-Inventure) which has invested in a Bitcoin wallet and platform, has partnered with fintech hub (Stone & Chalk), and has an internal innovation team in their internal lab (The Garage) and a $4 million early-stage innovation centre (The Hive).

Major events driving communication in the sector include the 2nd Annual FinTech Summit, taking place in Sydney in May 2016. It will bring together the ‘influential, disruptive and innovative technology companies that are redefining financial services’ across areas including lending, payments, big data, crypto, blockchain, insurance, security, personal finance & robo-advice. More than 15,000 attendees are also expected at the CeBIT Business Technology Australia event in Sydney in May, of which fintech will play a major part.




Featured image: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) and Stone & Chalk CEO Alex Scandurra (Credit: StartupSmart)