Aussie fintech startups boast 200% revenue growth, but there’s still work to be done on diversity and collaboration

Intersekt FinTech Australia

FinTech Australia chief executive Danielle Szetho. Source: Supplied

The second ever census of Australian fintech startups has shone a spotlight on the industry’s rapid growth and significant investment but the report reveals gender equality in the sector is still a ways off.

FinTech Australia released the findings of its annual census at the Intersekt Collab/Collide summit in Melbourne this morning. The report, which was completed in conjunction with professional services firm EY, is the second of its kind and shows the sector’s burgeoning growth over the last 12 months.

Answers from 166 fintech companies show median revenue has shot up 200% since June 2016, and one quarter of companies surveyed reported a mind-boggling revenue growth of 700%, with this growth particularly significant in companies less than three years old.

In a statement, FinTech Australia chair Simon Cant said the census results are a “strong sign” of Australia’s fintech firms encroaching on the traditional finance sector.

“The fact that the industry has experienced a tripling in median revenue is a strong sign that fintech firms are acquiring customers and making strong inroads into the traditional financial services sector,” he said.

Fifty-four percent of companies surveyed placed international expansion at the top of their list of priorities over the next 12 months, with half looking to expand into the UK before anywhere else.

This expansion will likely be aided with the newly announced fintech “bridge” between Australia and the UK, which the federal government will look to develop as a pathway for collaboration and investment.

“It is exciting to see that fintech firms are now sufficiently comfortable with their domestic positions to be increasingly planning international expansions. This is another sign of a healthy and maturing industry,” Cant said.

But the census results also reflect the view among startups that a lot of work is needed to get Australia’s fintech environment up to standard, specifically around legislation for tax initiatives. Improving the R&D Tax Initiative was the highest priority for 87% of startups surveyed, followed by mandating open data controls (85%) and capital gains tax relief (85%).

“There is a vast amount of work we need to continue to undertake to remove some of the barriers to our industry’s growth. This includes growing and diversifying our talent pool and driving ongoing policy and regulatory reforms,” Cant said.

Efforts to support the fintech industry on this front were announced earlier this week from the Treasurer’s office, with Scott Morrison proposing amendments to the Tax Incentive for Early Stage (angel) Investors legislation and venture capital partnership regimes.

These amendments will ensure fintech companies will be able to access investment under these regimes to provide “generous and effective support to innovative Australian companies”.

“The proposed amendments highlight the Turnbull Government’s commitment to promoting innovation, by incentivising investors to support innovative, high-growth potential start-ups,” Morrison said in a statement.

Progress on gender diversity stagnant

Despite best efforts from organisations like FinTech Australia — which pledged to meet a minimum 50% representation of women on Intersekt’s panels — overall gender diversity in Australian fintech startups has stayed “disappointingly” stable.

The census found 22% of employees in fintech companies were female in 2016 and this number jumped two percent to 24% in 2017.

Speaking at Intersekt this morning, FinTech Australia chief executive Danielle Szetho said a “really big lowlight” for her from the survey results was the lack of women in the fintech space.

“We’ve been very direct about what it is we [FinTech Australia] want to achieve — whether it’s baking in 30% minimum board requirements, or 50/50 speaker targets … there’s concrete things we can do, but I just don’t feel like I’ve seen that coming meaningfully from the startup ecosystem yet,” Szetho told StartupSmart in September.

Investment bountiful but collaboration difficult

Seventy-two percent of startups surveyed in this year’s census had received investment from private funding sources, with the average scale of fundraising to date being $4.1 million. The average monthly burn rate for fintech companies sat at $115,000.

Speaking at the summit, MoneyPlace founder Stuart Stoyan said these growth metrics in investment were a “real highlight” for him from the census.

“Couple of years ago we were a few people in hoodies sitting around and maybe having an idea about something, but these statistics show it’s really coming into it’s own,” he said.

Despite BlueChilli’s Alan Jones recently advising startups to “get real” about partnerships with corporates, 40% of fintech startups surveyed said they still struggle to collaborate with banks and other financial institutions. This is almost exactly the same figure as 2016, which was 41%.

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