What could Silicon Harbour do for fintech in Australia?

If you’ve seen The Imitation Game or know about the calculation machine (computer) used by the British during World War II to break enemy codes, you may wonder how Silicon Valley in the US is the centre for innovation and the computing industry, rather than Bletchley Park in the UK.

"What would it take for Sydney to become a technology centre? And what would it mean for Australia?"
Jayne Opperman, General Manager, Technology Retail, Commercial and Wealth

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That code-breaking drama took place at an extraordinary, frightening time but once again it is a time of opportunity – thanks to the global digital, mobile and data revolution – and fortunately without a world war. 

Silicon Valley may have superseded Bletchley Park, but what would it take for Sydney to become a technology centre? And what would it mean for Australia? 

Fintech is technology for financial services and it’s a young industry which is seeing exponential growth around the world. There’s a huge opportunity in Australia – by 2033 the sector could contribute $109 billion or 4 per cent of GDP to the Australian economy and 540,000 jobs by 2033 according to projections.

The announcement of the Financial Services Knowledge Hub in Sydney’s CBD is another feather in the cap for the city that is the epicentre of Australia’s financial services industry and leading Australia in technology start-ups. Approaching half - 42 per cent - of those working in the Australian financial services industry reside in NSW. 

And you only have to take a walk around the CBD to see the Fintech companies hanging out their shingles – SocietyOne, PocketBook, OzForex and TyroPayments just to name a few – it is already a thriving ecosystem.   

Of course, we now operate in a global technology environment – including the clouds! – and no one centre is likely to dominate the opportunity like Silicon Valley. Bangalore, for example, where ANZ and dozens of other mulitnationals have major operations, has already emerged as a centre of excellence in business process outsourcing and other technology services. 

The question is what extra opportunity a centre like Sydney could seize? 

Given my day job is about finding technology solutions for our retail, commercial and wealth businesses, I’m excited to be involved in such a forward-thinking initiative. At ANZ we are taking a broad-based approach to digital – reconsidering everything from the customer experience and transforming our business processes. 

And while there is always a buzz when we put shiny gadgets – like the new Grow by ANZ app – in the hands of our customers to make banking a simpler, faster and more mobile experience, the real digital transformation in banking is happening behind the scenes. 

We are modernising and integrating platforms such as those used for payments, automating processes and working to realise the benefits of ‘big data’ in order to have more insightful and timely conversations with our customers. 

Here are a few things I think we can anticipate as the Fintech industry continues to grow in Australia: 

  • Boosted trade for financial services
    While Australia’s financial sector as a proportion of its economy is large by international standards, financial services exports only represent a small proportion of Australia’s trade – we have an opportunity to correct that with the rising importance of developing digital economies.

  • Improved collaboration and innovation
    Collaboration between start-ups and established players already exists (such as our partnership with South African company Thumbzup which is enabling small businesses using ANZ FastPay to take swipe card payments on their mobile device) however, co-locating venture capitalists, with established and start-up Fintech companies in the hub in Sydney will accelerate what is already happening.

  • Greater access to skill and talent
    We’ll see businessesworking more closely with universities to build entrepreneurial accelerators like University of Sydney’s INCUBATE program. And it’s a telling fact that the Australian government is reworking the national curriculum to include how to write computer code beginning in Year 3.

Fintech presents a fantastic opportunity for Sydney as a leading financial services and technology hub for Australia and the Asia Pacific. Now it’s down to government and industry to work together and maximise that opportunity. 

Jayne Opperman – General Manager Technology Retail, Commercial and Wealth – is ANZ’s representative on the governance board of the Fintech Hub with ANZ a founding partner of the Fintech initiative.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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