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Fintech could boost jobs in SA - if we lead the conversation

Opinion

If you’re a local fintech or regtech firm, now’s the time to have your say on Australia’s regulatory framework.

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When I tell people I’ve recently been appointed deputy chair of the Senate Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology, the most common response I get is a puzzled expression, and the question “what is that?”

But fintech and regtech is something we should all get our heads around, especially here in South Australia.

At its most basic level, fintech refers to financial technology products that make financial services more efficient. Think: crypto-currency, digital banking or the use of digital wallets.

Regtech, or regulatory technology products, include products that use technology to facilitate regulatory practices and compliance, such as the use of ‘smart’ contracts or distributed ledgers.

There are a number of South Australian companies leading the field already in these new industries. For example, TicToc is a local fintech providing digital banking services, with its award-winning online home loan offerings.

There is also, as InDaily recently reported, ZionTech, which is a ‘Grape to Glass’ platform using blockchain to track the history of the grape through to its transformation into a bottle of wine.

In some ways, these organisations are thriving against the odds: Australia is ranked 22nd globally on the Global Innovation Index, down from 20 in 2018.

One of the challenges is that our regulation does not match the demands of the data-driven economy.

Australia has a hugely complex legal framework for privacy and information sharing, which can be mystifying and inaccessible without access to domain experts and specialist lawyers.

At present, the system can operate as a lose-lose: innovation is stymied as smaller businesses struggle to understand their responsibilities, while individuals are faced with a murky and unworkable system to advocate for their data rights.

An appropriate and accessible legal framework for data use and protection is just one way our national capability can thrive across new technologies.

If we get the regulatory framework right, and ensure that the interests of consumers are adequately protected and prioritised, the opportunities for our state are significant.

Advances in the technology behind Fintech and Regtech have the potential to influence a swathe of sectors in the Australian economy.

That will likely also mean a swathe of much-needed jobs.

South Australia must position itself to take full advantage of these opportunities.

While we’ve seen some signalling from the South Australian government that they are pro-tech, platitudes won’t set us up for success.

Lot 14 is a great start, but it’s a fragment of a mosaic, not the whole picture.

With the Senate Select Committee scheduled to report back in October 2020, we need to make sure our voices as a state are heard as the Commonwealth Government moves to consider the policy and regulatory frameworks around these sectors.

We need to make sure South Australia is seen nationally, and globally, as poised to take up the opportunities that these new sectors bring.

I’m a firm believer that our best days as a state are ahead of us, but they will only be so if we fight for our interests every single day.

We can’t fight for our interests if we miss the conversation.

I urge all South Australian businesses with an interest in this sector to make a submission to the inquiry.

That way together we can ensure not only that fintech and regtech are known to South Australians, but that South Australia is known for its Fintech and Regtech sector.

Marielle Smith is a Labor Senator for South Australia and Deputy Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology.

 The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is 31 December 2019. Submissions can be made at https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Financial_Technology_and_Regulatory_Technology/FinancialRegulatoryTech

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