Commonwealth Bank (CBA), one of Australia’s major banks, is looking to tap into the burgeoning financial technology (FinTech) market across the country through the launch of a FinTech startup incubator X15 Ventures. Growth and technical expertise for the new venture is being sourced from KPMG and Microsoft.
X15 Ventures is an ambitious project, aiming to get five FinTech businesses up and running over the course of this year alone, and 25 businesses operational over the next five years. CBA has an existing yearly technology investment fund worth $1 billion, part of which will fund X15 ventures. The exact amount allocated to the fund has not been disclosed.
The new incubator has hit the ground running, having already snapped up two startups to participate. The first, Home-In, is an online service designed to simplify residential real estate transactions. The second is a free of cost application that generates analytical business insights for businesses in Australia.
As these firms look to the next phase of growth under X15’s umbrella, Microsoft will support the participating firms with tech development, while financial expertise will come from Big Four accounting and advisory firm KPMG.
The move comes amid a rapidly expanding FinTech market across Australia. Major banks in the country are struggling with a variety of market factors, and are being threatened by the emergence of FinTech players, in particular in the retail banking and investment segments. The heavy legacy systems of the major banks are a major bottleneck to their ambitions in building an agile and flexible operation
CBA’s move to externalise part of its innovation via X15 ventures reflects a popular trend among major banks, with National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac both recently also turning to the startup environment. The former is supporting an accelerator programme, while the latter has been identifying promising startups in the regulation technology (RegTech) space through a challenge set up in 2018.
Toby Norton-Smith of CBA has been appointed Managing Director of X15 Ventures. Norton-Smith has been at Commonwealth Bank for more than five years, and has previously been the bank’s Head of Partnerships and FinTech as well as General Manager for Innovation & Ventures.
“X15 allows us to open the door and partner more easily with entrepreneurs than ever before. Under its umbrella, we will create an environment for new businesses to flourish, we’ll empower Australia’s innovators and bring new solutions to market designed to empower customers as never before. Businesses will be nurtured and developed as start-ups but will have the scale and reach of CBA behind them to achieve rapid growth,” said Norton-Smith.
Commenting on the partnership with X15 Ventures, Amanda Price, Head of High Growth Ventures at KPMG, said, “We look forward to working with X15 Ventures to build the ecosystem of support these new ventures need. From founder programs designed to unlock sustained high performance to business and strategy solutions for high-growth ventures, there will be a wealth of smart tools at their disposal to help them overcome the challenge of scaling at speed.”
KPMG international operates as a network of member firms offering audit, tax and advisory services. We work closely with our clients, helping them to mitigate risks and grasp opportunities. Member firms’ clients include business corporations, governments and public sector agencies and not-for-profit organizations. They look to KPMG for a consistent standard of service based on high order professional capabilities, industry insight and local knowledge. KPMG member firms can be found in 155 countries. Collectively they employ more than 155,000 people across a range of disciplines. Sustaining and enhancing the quality of this professional workforce is KPMG’s primary objective. Wherever we operate we want our firms to be no less than the professional employers of choice. We contribute to the effective functioning of international capital markets. We support reforms that strengthen the markets’ credibility and their social responsibility. We believe that similar reform must extend to the professional realm.
On 4 February 2020 it was stated that Microsoft is playing a pivotal role as technology partner for Commonwealth Bank’s newly minted X15 Ventures which has been established to help the bank stay at the leading edge of Australia’s financial services sector. Over the next five years CBA plans to work with 25 start ups through the wholly owned X15 Venture, creating valuable new services which will be available to its retail and business customers as well as to the broader market. Through the partnership with Microsoft, the start-ups that X15 selects to work with, are assured access to leading edge technology and expertise.