FinTech Australia chief executive Brad Kitschke has stepped down due to health reasons, having only started in the role in May.
Kitschke, who was previously Uber’s director of public policy and government in for Australia, tells StartupSmart he decided to resign rather than to take extended sick leave, in order to minimise disruption within FinTech Australia.
He considers stepping down as chief executive “what is best for members”, and “the right thing to do”.
“It’s a very small industry body, and it’s kind of unfair for me to say I’m going to disappear for a couple of weeks or months,” he says.
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To take sick leave “leaves the organisation without a leader, without any level of uncertainty [and] places an unfair level of stress on the team,” he adds.
Media reports have suggested that Kitschke may have ruffled a few feathers in Australia’s fintech space, and alienated some of the association’s 250 members in his negotiations around Open Banking. The Australian Financial Review quoted one source who said Kitschke was willing to “bash the banks”.
While Kitschke says he took a “very pro-competition stance in relation to policy and advocacy”, he maintains that he has been working to secure the best outcome for the industry as a whole.
“I refused to kowtow to larger members, who have deals with banks, who don’t want the open banking regime to be as competitive as it will be,” he says.
“When you run an industry body, you have to play a straight bat … bodies don’t exist for individual members,” he adds.
Kitschke says he was making decisions “for the ecosystem and the members as a whole”, in a bid to secure “advancements for the whole industry”.
“If people don’t like that, they don’t get to throw stones,” he says.
Speaking to StartupSmart, FinTech Australia chair Alan Tsen says Kitschke had done an “exceptional job”.
“It’s always a challenge representing an industry, especially fintech,” he says.
“It’s a very broad proposition. There are companies looking to disrupt incumbents and those that are looking to work with them, so obviously they have a different view as to how the fintech landscape looks … and how policy should look,” Tsen adds.
“We’ve had quite a bit of success around bringing the voice together for the ecosystem and more broadly for the betterment of the industry.”
Since taking on the chief executive role at FinTech Australia, Kitschke says he has been working on “making sure the foundations were solid … to make sure the organisations has a future”.
Launched in February 2016, the organisation has grown quickly, he says, and, as with anything that sees fast growth, “gaps and missing pieces” have emerged.
He has also been involved in securing funding for FinTech Australia’s Intersekt conference, and the Finnies fintech awards, while working on the organisation’s position regarding Open Banking.
Tsen notes that Kitschke has overseen “a bunch of operational improvements internally”, while also managing “a public interfacing piece around policy”.
Kitschke’s resignation is effective as of September 19, and until a replacement can be found, Rebecca Schot-Guppy will step in to work on some of the major upcoming events, with the support of the board.
“The board is helping to roll our sleeves up,” Tsen says.