​NAB broadens startup VC access with Israel's OurCrowd partnership

The bank has partnered with OurCrowd to give 'private' clients access to venture capital opportunities, and also updated its banking app to help customers navigate local currencies when travelling abroad.

The National Australia Bank (NAB) has announced a partnership with Israeli crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, aimed at giving the bank's "private" clients access to startup investments, as well as networks and events.

According to NAB, OurCrowd has raised over AU$600 million from approximately 20,000 investors across 112 countries, for over 120 early stage companies.

"We know that our clients are looking globally for investment opportunities, and OurCrowd is an established global platform which offers a full service end-to-end solution," NAB Private executive GM Christine Yates said.

"Technology is changing the way we do business and this shows how NAB is thinking differently when it comes to servicing our clients. Our NAB clients will have access that is not available outside this collaboration."

NAB Ventures -- the bank's venture capital fund -- led a $24 million Series D funding round in Canadian cloud fintech firm Wave last month, after it similarly led a $24 million Series B investment round for blockchain-based foreign exchange startup Veem in February.

Last year, NAB chief Andrew Thorburn said the bank was looking to make faster, bigger, better changes, and to do that, it needed to embrace the hunger found within fintech companies.

"I actually think we are a fintech company ourselves. I think we have the mindset of a fintech company, and I actually think we have a lot of the assets of a fintech company," he said previously.

"Fintech companies -- the smaller, emerging ones -- they're hungry, they want to make an impact, they find an opportunity, and they go after it. And that's the sort of hunger we need inside our own company.

"They should be respected, but not feared."

Also on Monday, NAB's mobile banking app received an update. NAB now uses the device's GPS location to provide customers a local greeting and automatically default to indicate local exchange rates when they are transacting on their personal banking Visa cards.

The app's Travel Tools will provide foreign exchange rates and information for 37 currencies and will provide customers with advice when they're given multiple currency choice options by merchants, the bank explained.

NAB signed agreements with Israel's Bank Leumi and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in September, in a bid to enable the sharing of information and innovation strategies, and open up their respective networks with startup partners.

The app update stems from the bank's 10-year alliance with Visa, alongside the CIBC innovation alliance.

NAB relaunched its mobile banking app in December, which NAB executive general manager of digital Todd Copeland told ZDNet was more of a complete experience, rather than simply an app.

With the updated app comes new features, including the ability for customers to transfer funds using the recipient's mobile number -- a move in line with the instantaneous new payments platform project the Reserve Bank of Australia will launch later this year.

Another feature is Visa card customisation that sees users able to temporarily block cards, turn off online shopping, disable PayWave functionality, and prevent cash withdrawals from ATMs.

For the first half of the 2017 financial year, NAB posted AU$2.55 billion in after-tax profit -- a 246.1 percent turnaround from the AU$1.74 billion loss reported last year.

For the six months to March 31, 2017, cash earnings were AU$3.39 billion, an increase of 2.3 percent, on revenue from ordinary activities of AU$8.64 billion, down 4.7 percent year over year.

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