Senate committee to probe Australia's fintech and regtech opportunity

The committee will look into the current state of Australia's fintech and regtech industries, and investigate opportunities to promote ‘effective and sustainable growth’.

The Australian government is looking into the opportunities that financial technology (fintech) and regulatory technology (regtech) could present by standing up a Senate committee to, among other things, look at what other countries have already done in that space.

A Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology will undertake the inquiry by examining the size and scope of the opportunity for Australian consumers and business; the barriers to the uptake of new technologies in the financial sector; current practices and ways to strengthen them; as well as the effectiveness of current initiatives in promoting a "positive environment" for fintechs and regtechs.

"The committee would like to hear directly from startups in the fintech and regtech sectors but recognises that most startups do not regularly deal with government and can find it confusing," the terms of reference [PDF] for the inquiry says.

It is expected the inquiry will look into supplementary industries in Australia, such as agriculture and medical, which the issues paper [PDF] says draw upon technology and innovation.

"This inquiry is not about big or small businesses or startups; it is about all Australian businesses being as innovative as possible to create the next wave of employment growth," it continued. "Australia still has much work to do to transition and advance our economy."

See also: Has Australia lost the startup bug? Fishburners doesn't think so

According to the paper, there are five key factors which collectively determine Australia's competitive position to attract and maintain investment in technology: Capital and funding, tax, skills and talent, culture, and regulation.

"Access to funding and capital can be a life or death issue for an organisation engaging in innovation," the paper says, adding that taxation complexity and schemes to promote tax competitiveness can be difficult for firms to negotiate.

"Access to the best minds and skills is critical to our success as a nation."

"Promoting a culture of startup success is a factor that cannot be created by government, but government can promote ingenuity," the paper continued, calling Israel, Singapore, the UK, and the US state of California "stand outs"

The inquiry follows a motion moved by Senator Andrew Bragg in early September that called for the establishment of a committee to look into financial and regulatory technologies.

At the time, Bragg said the inquiry would be a perfect opportunity to bolster national competitiveness in technology.

"Australian consumers and businesses will reap the benefits of technology but only if our policies are properly calibrated," he said. "The fintech and regtech sectors are critical to the future of our jobs and lifestyles.

He said that given the financial sector makes up 11% of Australia's GDP, it is critical the policies are right.

"FinTech has a big future in providing jobs. Clever and competitive must be our credo," he continued.

The Big Four banks -- ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, and Westpac -- currently hold around 95% of the entire market share in Australia.

Submissions close December 31 and the committee is to present its final report on or before the first sitting day in October 2020.

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