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EXCLUSIVE – NZ Government’s role in driving the pace of fintech development with FinTechNZ

EXCLUSIVE – NZ Government’s role in driving the pace of fintech development with FinTechNZ

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Jacqui Dean attended and spoke at the Wellington launch of the New Zealand Financial Innovation and Technology Association (FinTechNZ) on 8 February 2017. OpenGov caught up with Minister Dean through an email interview to find out more about her involvement with FinTech NZ, the government’s broad plans with fintech development and attracting more women to join the tech sector. 

 As a founding member and part of the Core Working Group of FinTechNZ, what do you hope that FinTechNZ can achieve in the short term for the next 1-3 years?

Fintech is a fast-growing sector, and the opportunities for New Zealand companies – and consumers – are exciting. Our agile regulatory system has allowed us to be ahead of the curve with innovations such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending. We are having a look at what Government’s role is in fintech, whether our regulatory settings are right, and what risks and opportunities we need to be preparing for.

As a founding member of FinTechNZ, Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) officials will work closely with industry to understand what’s challenging (and what’s working well) for fintech firms in New Zealand, and connect across relevant government agencies.

Are there any broad strategies or plans in place by the New Zealand government with regards to fintech development?

The Government strongly supports New Zealand’s tech sector, including fintech, and we are constantly working to provide an environment that enables tech businesses to thrive. For example, New Zealand’s first fintech accelerator, currently underway, is supported with money the Government allocated in last year’s budget. We’re also making sure we accommodate innovation in financial advice: the new regulatory regime for financial advice is being deliberately drafted to allow for the provision of robo-advice to New Zealand consumers.

With regards to fintech strategy, the first step for government is to understand what the barriers and opportunities are for fintech innovation. We know that this is an area where government needs to be nimble and act swiftly to address unnecessary regulatory barriers. We also want enough regulation to protect consumers and maintain confidence in our financial markets.

At a more general level, the Government is also working across portfolios to make sure we have the right environment for innovative businesses, such as fintech businesses, to thrive.

This includes:

  • providing support for R&D, and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship,
  • helping firms access capital and export,
  • ensuring we produce and attract highly skilled people,
  • and, of course, making sure our regulation is flexible and fit for purpose.

Will there be any other government ministries/agencies and private sector companies which will be working with FinTechNZ?

The initial core working group members are listed on the FintechNZ web page. MBIE will act as the main point of contact for government and will help industry connect with other relevant government agencies as necessary.

It was reported recently that the technology mentoring programme Shadow Tech Days will see an investment of $270k to inspire more young women to join the tech sector. Are there any similar initiatives or plans to attract more women to work in the fintech sector?

Initiatives like Shadow Tech Days, to which the Government contributed $270,000, will certainly help bring more women up through the pipeline.

More broadly, there are a number of initiatives to grow and support female entrepreneurs and women in tech. Last year one the government-funded accelerators in Wellington ran an accelerator programme for female entrepreneurs – Lightning Lab XX. The Ministry for Women provides a STEM directory that identifies opportunities for girls to get exposure to science, technology and engineering. 

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