To FinTech influencer Chen Lahav, while the industry has navigated COVID, it now must evolve in order to survive.
We sat down with FinTech influencer Chen Lahav, who has been leading technology and professionals in the FinTech domain for more than two decades. We spoke to the Israel-born, Sydney-based expert about the industry’s current state of play, and what needs to happen for FinTech to thrive in the post-COVID landscape.
Hi Chen. Can we kick things off by detailing some of your personal and professional background?
I have been working in the FinTech domain for over 20 years. Over the last two decades, I’ve developed global FinTech innovation in Tel-Aviv, London, India, and now, Australia. I am a hands-on software engineering leader, as well as a CTO and consultant, and I was previously employed by international Tier-1 companies and high-profile start-ups.
Recently, I have been consulting early-stage start-ups and public companies on technical implementations, innovation, and leadership in FinTech-adjacent and complementary domains. In addition, I consult pro-bono to technical and community initiatives set up to promote the financial well-being of Australian women and children, and I contribute to the software entrepreneur community by serving as a mentor in the Sydney Start-up Hub.
In your career, you may have seen ‘the writing on the wall’ as it were on occasion. Was there an occasion where you predicted an outcome that came to be?
I anticipated that the introduction of the Consumer Data Right (CDR) regulation was going to create opportunities for innovative companies to provide CDR, ADR, and the like and open banking as a service. It’s lovely to see the work being done in this domain by Frollo and Adatree, however, I believe that more innovation is required and is available.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the market or industry in Australia?
I believe the Australian FinTech industry has successfully emerged from the global crisis enabled by COVID-19. It is a vibrant industry, and strong forces are shaping it every day, sometimes in unforeseen directions.
For instance, Xinja’s decision to return its banking license was very surprising and was followed by several acquisitions of Xinja’s competitors by the ‘Big Four’ banks. This raises the question: what is considered a ‘Neo Bank’, and is there one in Australia today? Well, the big ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ providers like Zip and AfterPay are expanding internationally (partly due to acquisitions) and they are establishing their international presence.
Prior to COVID-19, Australia was the fifth largest FinTech hub, and I believe that if the federal government acts quickly with regards to talent, then we’ll move one or two places up the ladder.
What are some potential ‘danger points’ you see emerging in the industry?
The challenges that may slow down the growth and expansion of the industry are talent, mergers and acquisitions and regulation.
The ‘Big Four’ banks haven’t been able to bring in talent since February 2020. To make things worse, many IT professionals on temporary skill visas are being forced to leave Australia, rather than being offered an extension visa or a path to permanent residency.
Technology never waits for regulation, as BNPL, SME lenders (and other innovative businesses in FinTech) are growing and expanding, but regulation will eventually catch up.
Regulation is necessary to protect consumers and define the new relationships between credit authorities and BNPL providers, SME lending risk management, and such. As for mergers and acquisitions? Well, they may slow down innovation and competition by consolidating the different players.
With the right course of action or industry-wide decisions being made, what do you see as the best outcomes, and who will benefit the most?
In my opinion, we should consistently apply pressure on the administration to act faster to amend immigration laws, in order to offer skilled IT workers temporary visas and maybe even a fast track to permanent residency. I think this is the most important industry-wide decision that should be made. The ‘15K Global Talent threshold’ for 2021 isn’t enough.
The benefits of an increase would be huge. As more highly skilled IT professionals will increase the talent pool, it’ll make the market more competitive, reduce salaries, enable further local growth, and support international expansion.
As explicit shareholders or implicit – through EFTs, Super, et cetera – in these companies, we’ll all enjoy these great outcomes.
For over 20 years Global Financial Technology Expert Chen Lahav has been leading technology and professionals in the FinTech domain while developing his speciality – global FinTech innovation. Currently, Chen consults early-stage start-ups and ASX listed companies on technical implementation, innovation and leadership in FinTech, adjacent and complementary domains.
Chen Lahav is the founder and namesake of Chen Lahav Consulting.