How the Victorian Government is working to position the state as a global Fintech hub
As Fintech innovations continue to disrupt the financial industry, the state government of Victoria in Australia has been working pro-actively to foster a thriving Fintech ecosystem. It is seeking to ensure that Melbourne’s fintech sector reaches its full potential and continues to create jobs, businesses, technologies and exports.
Last week, the Victorian Government led a delegation of Fintech companies to Singapore for Money 2020 Asia. During a Corporate Access day prior to the event, OpenGov spoke to Amelia Fyfield, Deputy Commissioner, Southeast Asia, at Trade and Investment Victoria and Alex Veale, Trade Specialist- Professional Services, Trade Victoria, under the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR), to learn more about how the state government is working to help the state’s Fintech sector realise its potential.
The financial services sector is the largest contributor to the Victorian economy, generating around A$40 billion (around 11% of the Gross State Product) and employing more than 115,000 people.
Melbourne is home to two of Australia’s big four global banks - ANZ and NAB – and is the dominant city both for Australia’s industry pension funds and its largest health insurers. Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the A$130 billion Future Fund, is also headquartered in Melbourne.
At the same time, Melbourne’s ICT sector has a strong track record of developing world-class technology-enabled businesses, estimated to be worth A$34.8 billion, including A$2.16 billion in exported services. Melbourne has recognised strength in cybersecurity knowledge and the Victorian Government has committed to grow the state’s cyber security industry with funding and resources.
The industry is supported by a growing network of angel and seed investors, incubator and accelerator programmes and a top-notch university system that is actively engaged in technology-related collaboration and R&D with industry. Melbourne produces more ICT graduates than any other city in Australia, enabling supply of a highly skilled talent pool.
Today Melbourne has a growing Fintech ecosystem worth US$300 million and featuring approximately 60 companies employing more than 500 people, and dominated by wealth management and payment companies.
Examples include, Moula, a provider of working capital to small and medium businesses, with average loans of A$30,000 and Six Park, which uses advanced robo-advice technology, along with human oversight, to assist investors to create a diversified portfolio of ASX-listed Exchange Traded Funds in accordance with their personal risk profile and investment horizon.
Connecting the dots
As many Victorian Fintech companies increasingly look towards Asia for growth, Ms Fyfield explained that the government’s role in this is essentially that of a broker.
DEDJTR has a Trade and Investment Office based in Singapore, which has developed a network of contacts in the Fintech space, with venture capitalists (VCs), banks, and telecommunication companies. There is a sector-based team in Melbourne which has a great understanding of the players in the Victorian Fintech space and their strengths. The two work together to connect the Fintech companies from Melbourne to global markets, helping the companies understand what the market is looking for.
This includes companies who are most likely to benefit from the services that the Fintech companies are providing or who would have an interest in investing in those companies to help them grow and expand across the region.
“Singapore, in particular, is gaining recognition as a Fintech hub in south east Asia. So, it was an obvious next step to encourage some of those companies to come up to Singapore, and to have a look at what’s happening here, what the regulatory system is like, what the banks are looking for, what the VCs are looking for,” Ms Fyfield explained.
Networks, incubators and accelerators
FinTech Melbourne has over 2,000 members and it received A$30,000 from LaunchVic, the lead startup ecosystem development agency for the State of Victoria, to grow more rigour and robustness in the local fintech community.
In 2016 Collab / Collide Melbourne hosted Australia’s first national fintech conference – supported with a A$300,000 grant from LaunchVic.
Stone & Chalk is an independent Australian Fintech startup specialist that already has 300 entrepreneurs working in more than 60 startups who have collectively raised more than A$100 million in funding.
The Stone & Chalk hub is located at the Goods Shed North in Docklands, joining existing cyber security organisations including the Data61 Cybersecurity Innovation Hub, to establish a fintech and cyber security precinct.
The YBF Ventures hub at 520 Bourke Street will offer a range of advisory services focused on helping fintech startups develop and commercialise business concepts. It will also partner with Startupbootcamp to deliver a FinTech Accelerator Program.
In addition to these, there are numerous incubators (BlueChilli, STC Incubator) and accelerators ( Melbourne Accelerator Program, Slingshot Accelerator), meeting the needs of startups at various stages in their development, by providing workspace, services, mentorship and programmes to help them achieve their goals.
Meanwhile, the national markets regulator, Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has an Innovation Hub, which helps Fintech startups navigate the regulatory system.
The educational institutions are also a critical component of the ecosystem.
Looking at the emerging blockchain space, last September, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) established a Blockchain Innovation Hub, described as the world’s first research centre on the social science of blockchain. The hub is developing an interdisciplinary research team focused on the economic, cultural and social implications and impacts of blockchain technologies. It will engage with government, policymakers, stakeholders and the public debate on the social and policy impact of blockchain technology.
In response to the growing importance of blockchain as an emerging industry, RMIT launched Australia’s first university short course on blockchain strategy in February 2018.
Organisations, like the Blockchain Centre are also providing free and paid education courses for the blockchain and crypto-currency space. Mr Veale said that they are planning to open 20 new centres around the world, in places ranging from Lithuania to Colombia and south east Asia, over the next couple of years.
Mr Veale said, “It comes down to promoting a vibrant and creative city in which an industry like Fintech, that’s so much about stretching accepted norms, disrupting established business as usual, can really flourish. Melbourne takes a lot of pride in being a liveable city that attracts talent and retains it. These are all really key component blocks to creating a place that is a vibrant welcoming space for innovation in fintech and in all other sorts of fields.”