“Sydney is definitely the right place for fintech to thrive,” Mr Kirk told Fintech Business, noting that many of Australia’s financial services businesses are concentrated in Sydney, creating an ideal environment for the growth of fintech companies.
“If your customers are effectively here, or the people with whom you’re competing with are here so you understand the business models well, you can draw on the employees and understand financial services,” the CEO said.
The presence of world-class universities, like the University of Sydney and University of Technology Sydney, means that fintech companies can also easily source highly skilled employees.
Mr Kirk pointed towards the presence of accelerators and incubators like Stone & Chalk as one of the reasons for Sydney’s success as a fintech hub.
“When entrepreneurs get to go to a place where there are other entrepreneurs to talk to, that are provided with pretty cheap rent, that are provided with the opportunity to get lots of good bandwidth… and to learn from those people and be exposed to funders through that process as well, that’s fantastic,” he said.
While Australia’s regulatory environment has proven troubling to some – new encryption laws could see companies forced to hand over passwords to the Australian government – Mr Kirk believes that some parts of the regulatory environment are actually helpful to start-ups.
“We’re invested in one fintech company, Lendi, and there’s no barriers to them,” Mr Kirk said. “In fact, it’s very important to them that there’s a very orderly and well-organised regulatory environment, because they’re a good actor and a good player in that regulatory environment and they don’t want to have to compete with unregulated, unmanaged competitors who aren’t constrained by prudential regulation,” Mr Kirk said.
The nature of Australia’s financial landscape and its compulsory superannuation system also mean that there is always a demand for new fintech companies, according to Mr Kirk.
“There’s a lot of savings, and those savings get invested in a whole range of different ways into other financial services businesses, into other ways of structuring businesses to create returns, and that might be through private equity, it might be through venture capital, it might be through a managed fund,” he said. “It’s a big vibrant market in Australia.”