Fintech Australia appoints its first CEO as it aims to build a world-leading ecosystem

Australia’s national association for fintech startups has appointed its first ever CEO, with an industry head at Fairfax set to take the reins with the aim of making the local ecosystem a world-leading hub.

Current industry head of banking and financial services at Fairfax Media Danielle Szetho is now the CEO of Fintech Australia after a unanimous decision by the group’s board.

Szetho has spent most of her career working in the media industry, including for News Limited and Fox Sports.

The natural choice

Fintech Australia president Simon Cant says Szetho is the natural choice to lead the group going forward.

“We needed someone that could really build and drive the community – we interviewed a number of candidates but Danielle is the perfect person for this role,” Cant tells StartupSmart.

“She’s a natural connector and that’s exactly what this role needs, someone that brings a vision and has the energy to get stuff done.”

Szetho says her interest in fintech was sparked by her work at Fairfax.

“My role was about understanding the landscape, our clients, the trends and making sure Fairfax itself was positioned to deliver on this,” Szetho tells StartupSmart.

“Inevitably if you work across this ecosystem and talk to the banks you hear about fintech. I threw myself into fintech and it has been so fascinating to see how this is developing.”

After signing up with Fintech Australia as a volunteer, she soon applied for the position of CEO when it was advertised earlier this year.

“I got into the ecosystem and found out about Fintech Australia,” Szetho says.

“I thought it was absolutely fantastic and I was really encouraged by its ability to self-organise in a short space of time and pull together a really compelling submission that drives actionable outcomes.

“That ability to drive outcomes has to be what it’s all about.”

The overall vision

Szetho says she has lofty ambitions for the group and Australian fintech in general.

“My vision is to make Australia one of the world’s leading markets for fintech innovation,” she says.

“Realistically I do think we have a strong shot and a strong role to play in Asia.”

The top priority for Fintech Australia now is a national census on fintech startups.

“Unless we have some really good, solid data about the size, composition and maturity of the market and where the gaps are it’s difficult to argue about what we need to be doing,” Szetho says.

“There’s a big piece to play in terms of how we get talent into the ecosystem too.”

Before consolidating into a formal association, Fintech Australia, as a group of 30 or so players in the sector, produced a policy priorities paper for the government after meeting with treasurer Scott Morrison.

“He caught the bug and could see the potential of it,” Cant says.

“We decided as a group to get something done first and then set up the group. We’ve had great momentum and impact in a short space of time before we were really even an association.

“People were really galvanised by the impact but we were really conscious that we wanted to create something really sustainable.”

Keeping focus

With more than a month left in the election campaign, Cant says he hopes fintech remains an ongoing focus.

“It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the potential of fintech,” he says.

“I’d love to see the momentum continued after the election. This is a bipartisan mission, both sides get the power and importance of fintech and how important it is for the government to ensure that they clear away the obstacles.”

Szetho adds that it’s important for Australia to overcome city rivalries and work together as a true ecosystem.

“Our vision is about Australia, and if you can’t get behind that then who can you get behind?” she says.

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