I am very pleased to be chairing this inquiry which is about facilitating increased competition in Australia's financial sector and beyond. The conduct exposed by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry clearly showed there is a need for more competition in the sector.
New competition is coming from the FinTech sector, which unless fostered, will leave the nation with the status quo or force Australia to buy more and more technology from abroad. It is critical that Australia continues developing into a leading Asia-Pacific FinTech nation as Hong Kong declines as a financial centre. A unique opportunity has opened for new jobs and better consumer choices if we can be as good as Singapore and Tokyo in our time zone.
Every day Australia is competing for the best ideas, best people and for the capital needed to create the next wave of jobs and widen consumer choices.
Put simply, the inquiry is about ensuring the settings are optimal to encourage and support Australian FinTech and RegTech businesses, the purpose of which is to increase competition and productivity, offer technology solutions to assist customers, create jobs and also engage in export opportunities. More jobs and more choice will be the dividend.
New jobs will be found throughout the economy as technology is pervasive and provides the basis for Australian businesses to achieve a competitive edge. AgTech is an example of one such area as farming becomes increasingly more reliant on technology.
The committee intended to table an interim report at the end of March 2020. However, since the committee finished its public hearings in February, Australia’s economic and financial environment changed dramatically as a result of the unfolding COVID‑19 pandemic.
In light of these evolving circumstances, the committee decided not to press ahead with its previous timetable and to extend its final reporting date until 16 April 2021. The committee re-opened its inquiry submission process to enable submitters to provide further input to the committee on what the needs of the sector are at this time.
The committee has also been using this additional time to review the technology changes and reforms driven by COVID-19 across a range of areas. The committee heard that it is important to lock in the productivity gains driven by COVID-19. The committee also looked into the opportunities created in relation to the use of Regtech to provide solutions for making business compliance simpler and easier.
During the inquiry to date the committee has heard inspiring FinTech and RegTech success stories and welcomes the growing number of unicorns. The committee heard that innovative FinTech companies are using technology to improve the customer experience and outcomes and solve customer problems by providing tailored products.
The committee also heard about the difficulties for innovative startups to compete with very large incumbents and deal with a large amount of regulation.
In order to focus more easily on the settings that are overseen by the Commonwealth Government, the committee has taken the approach of investigating issues in the following areas: tax; regulation; capital and funding; skills and talent; and culture. These are set out in the following chapters with a final chapter containing the committee's conclusions and recommendations.
It is my hope that this interim report can be seen as a series of 'quick wins'. The intention is then for longer term structural issues to be dealt with in the final report now due by April 2021. If we are going to compete with Singapore and Tokyo, we first need to get our house in order at home. Much progress has been made but it’s time for some recalibration. Government should not be afraid to act like in FinTech and be iterative.
I wish to thank the other members on the committee for their interest, engagement and collegiate approach to the operation of the committee. I welcome the engagement from the sector with the inquiry to date and look forward to the committee's recommendations making a practical difference.
Senator Andrew Bragg