It is amazing how much inventiveness and competitiveness are driven by the mental constitution of a nation. So much talent and energy can be mobilised if leaders can rally people behind a shared narrative — one of innovation and growth.
Let me reflect on the Tyro experience. When my family and I settled in Australia in October 2004, this country seemed to go from strength to strength. My friends in Germany, troubled by navigating crisis after crisis, unemployment, budget deficits, restructuring and asset redeployment, were bewildered when I described my first impressions of the land Down Under.
At the time, starting a challenger to the bank oligopoly seemed ludicrous. The founders of Tyro were audacious. My joining them was declared crazy. But with the encouragement and support of then-Governor of the Reserve Bank, Ian Macfarlane, and after long struggles, the oldest fintech start-up of Australia got off the ground.
It took us four years to get access to the core banking system and nine years to break even. After 11 years we launched the first Australian fintech hub, and after 12 years we were able to remove prior restrictions on our bank licence. It was, and is, hard but we march on with the vision of building the new, fair and transparent banking and that here at home.
Today, the tide seems to have turned and the country is awakening to the challenge of competing in the digital century. Too slow? Too late? History will tell. I feel the timing to launch your own enterprise could not be better.
- At the Tyro and Stone & Chalk Fintech Hubs, former (or soon-to-be former) bankers and engineers are collaborating to invent new business models and start-up companies.
- The Turnbull government is pushing the innovation agenda along the motto “no excuses – get on with it”. Twenty five-year-old Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy, is walking the talk as a “tyro minister” by promoting a recent “policy hackathon”.
- The regulators have embraced the innovation and competition agenda. ASIC launched the Innovation Hub and Digital Finance Advisory Committee. ACCC might get more teeth if the “effects test” gets finally legislated. The RBA pushed the banking industry to invest into a real-time core payment infrastructure.
- The start-up community is delivering success stories: OzForex, Tyro, SocietyOne, Ratesetter, Spotcap, Stockspot, Moula and many more. Investment capital has started to flow into the fintech sector. There is not a fortnight without another announcement.
Whether it will ultimately work depends on whether we can close the gap with other global fintech centres. The world is not standing still. We are seriously behind. But the mood is changing. In May, I had called on Australia’s best and brightest to get out of their comfort zone and start building the new fintech eco-system. That time is now.