Aussie Fintech: Collaborate, Collide, or all of the above?

Last week’s inaugural Fintech Australia Summit in Melbourne, Australia brought together over 150 representatives from the local fintech start up community, government, regulators and the broader industry. The conference was held across two days: the first day featured a series of panels inspired by the Summit’s marketing tag of ‘Collab/Collide’, and the second day comprised a kind of start up master class.

AgriDigital’s CEO, Emma Weston, was part of a panel discussion on the first day of the Summit alongside CoinJar co-founder & CEO, Asher Tan, and co-founder & CEO of Bitcoin Group, Sam Lee. Not surprisingly, the panel focused on blockchain technologies and the twin themes of collaboration and collision were given full vent.

An Opportunity for Innovation and Disruptio

Blockchain or distributed ledger technologies present incumbent firms, such as banks, with both an opportunity to innovate as well as a potential threat of disruption. The idea of a future where settlements and the buying and selling of assets no longer require trusted intermediaries, coupled with the potential to significantly lower the costs of these types of transactions, is causing a lot of excitement and fuelling significant experimentation in this space. And this experimentation is not limited to the financial industry. The advent and uptake of cryptocurrencies, new forms of digital currency, and the peer-to-peer nature of blockchain mean that these technologies present opportunities for innovation across many different industries.

To Collab or To Collide?

With these technologies still in early phases of development, collaboration would appear to be key. But, interestingly, we did not hear about many examples of collaboration between small and large players. Collaboration appeared to be easier or more successful when the partners were more equal in size or bargaining power. More often than not, successful new entrants were finding a gap in the market and going it alone, at least initially. This was a message that came through not just in the blockchain discussion, but also in panels that explored payments, alternative finance, and robo advice.

The big banks appeared to be missing in action at the Summit, although self-titled next-gen bank Tyro, with its newly minted banking licence, was there pushing for collision.

Like with so many things in life, our view is that we’ve probably got to do a bit of both. At AgriDigital we have realised that partnering and pushing for change can both create winning outcomes.

Building an Aussie Fintech Community

The second day of the conference focused just on startups, moving away from the collab/collide debate and creating a more intimate zone to discuss the challenges and successes of startup life. The Hon. Scott Morrison, Treasurer, attended, underscoring the continued importance of innovation and the startup ecosystem to the Government’s vision for Australia’s future.

But the real highlight for us was being able to share with, and learn from, others. Discussions ranged from building tech teams, to business development, to lean principles, and navigating the regulatory maze. Day 2 was a highlight, and we look forward to future meetings of the Fintech Australia community.