Financial app Finch launches in Australia with a challenge to the big banks

Finch fintech Toby Gardner, Shahriah Gardner and Eric Kunh

Finch co-founders Toby Gardner, Shahriah Gardner and Eric Kunh.

Melbourne-based fintech startup Finch has launched its “financial app for your social life”, which aims to use relationship-based metrics and personal touches to appeal to a millennial market, unseating similar offerings from banks.

“Finch is built around behaviours rather than products,” co-founder Toby Gardner tells StartupSmart

“We allow users to request money from friends, run tabs for payments when travelling, provide financial insights specifically around your social life, help users understand where all their money went last Friday night,” he says.

Toby says Finch is “taking a different approach to how banks think about and serve customers”, a sentiment that is echoed by his co-founder Shahirah Gardner.

“We want to be able to provide personalised, data-driven information to support [our customers’] lives as they evolve,” she says.

“Today it’s their social life, tomorrow it’s their financial security and savings.” 

Finch co-founders Toby, Shahirah and Eric Kunh met as housemates while they were studying at the University of Berkeley, California, and they continued to immerse themselves in the Silicon Valley ecosystem as the first international company to participate in renowned US fintech accelerator Envestnet/Yodlee.

Finch beat local startups to win best demo in the accelerator program, followed by demo day, where they pitched to some of the Valley’s most prominent VC’s.

Shahirah noted that experience reinforced that Finch “has what it takes to be globally competitive” and that experiencing “that level of validation from the Valley” gave the team crucial confidence. 

While Finch was “courted by investors” wanting the startup to move to the US, the team decided to launch in Australia.

“There is an enormous opportunity in Australia,” Toby says. “We wanted to build around the Australian ecosystem and raise a large round here and go to the US as an Australian company.”

He also wants to see Australia establish a strong network of role models in the startup ecosystem, something which doesn’t happen if companies leave to launch and seek funding in the US.

“The more role models we have in Australia as fintechs the better it will be for the ecosystem,” he says.

We get approached almost three times as much by Silicon Valley investors than in Australia…Australian VCs [also] suffer from a lack of role models.”

The trio’s time studying at Berkeley would give them the motivation to start Finch and disrupt the traditional banking offerings. Toby reflects on how ten or 12 of his classmates have “raised almost half a billion dollars,” for their startups since graduating.

“It gives you the confidence when sitting next to your classmates that you can do it yourself -having those examples around you frequently makes you think anything is possible,” he says.

He believes instilling this confidence in home-grown startups is key to developing an internationally-leading fintech ecosystem.

“Australian fintech is very talented, we’ve got a lot of great startups, but we need to have more confidence in home grown technology.”

He says we should “stop bowing down to US tech giants like banks have done recently,” and instead look to startups as “the first line of defence” in fintech innovation. 

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