Finance, Startup Opinion

This decade will see Aussie brands go global like never before, predicts Airwallex chief Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu /

unicorns Airwallex

Airwallex co-founder and president Lucy Liu. Source: supplied.

For decades, Australian brands have struggled to break through onto the world stage. Success stories exist, but they are far and few between. 

The reasons for this are many and varied, but a common theme is a financial infrastructure that deters or disadvantages Australia from participating in the global economy.

The tide is turning. There has been a huge shift in the way we pay for goods and services in Australia over the past ten years. As we enter a new decade, it has never been a better time to set up shop overseas.

To do business overseas, you have typically needed to set up a banking presence in the country or currency being traded. While this may appear a simple concept at first glance, the reality is it has been incredibly difficult to set up bank accounts overseas. For example, opening up a bank account in the US can take up to six months, while in the UK, you have to set up an account in person, and thereafter face steep repatriate fees. This way of working simply hasn’t been viable for the majority of SMEs and startups, whose already tight profit margins can’t bear such a brunt.

Those days are soon to be a distant reality. Digital financial platforms, including Airwallex, have created truly global accounts, which cut out the cost, time and geographic barriers, opening up a whole new world of business.

Navigating international finance laws, rules and regulations is by no means straight-forward. Geographically, our nearest trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region host dozens of currencies, accompanied by competing or even opposing regulatory regimes. Coordinating this has typically been something only the large corporates could manage, with their experts and legal teams on call. This cost, which can run into the hundreds of thousands, is inconceivable to most SMEs and startups, which end up missing out on tapping into this huge demographic.

However, fintech companies are popping up across Australia with meaningful solutions that help simplify the whole process. The rise of fintech in Australia is providing opportunities to level the playing field so that everyone can have the opportunity to go global.

Finally, Australia’s position at the bottom of the globe may once have been considered isolating from the rest of the world, but this is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The rise of the digital marketplace and e-commerce mean you can buy and sell goods and services all around the world, with the click of a button. This way of doing business is booming in Australia and expected to be valued at $35.2 billion by 2021. This, in conjunction with the rise of digital payments and global accounts, mean Australian businesses are well positioned to tackle the global stage.

Australia’s e-commerce market is the tenth-largest in the world, but trails far behind the likes of the UK, France, Japan and India. In this new decade, we must play catch up.

My proposition to businesses across Australia in 2020 is: why limit yourself to the local market when you could have any customer in the world?

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Lucy Liu

Lucy is the co-founder and president at Airwallex. Previously, she was an investment consultant at China International Capital Corp, and before that, the director of Hong Kong-based investment company Hong Stone Investment Development Limited, where she designed and implemented their financial and operational strategy.