In the last few weeks, we have examined how FinTech can help business owners provide a more agile and responsive service for their customers. A company doing exciting things in this space is Kounta, a POS software solution, for retail and hospitality industries. We had a chat with the founder, Nick Cloete to explore where he thinks the technology is at, what the opportunities for Australian businesses are, and the potential for the technology.
How does FinTech innovation in Australia compare to the rest of the world?
According to Cloete, Australia is leading the way with FinTech development. He asserts that because we have such a very well regulated and contained market, it is much easier to create, incubate and test best of breed technology, compared to the Asian and North American markets. As it stands, Australia is currently ranked 5th in the global FinTech ecosystem, and the most exciting aspect is that we are still in the early phases of the technology.
What are the opportunities for Australian businesses?
Like all disruptive technologies, FinTech has levelled the playing field, by providing cheaper, more agile solutions for smaller businesses. Cloete states 'Traditionally these technologies were cost-prohibitive to anybody but big budget enterprise businesses, whereas now it’s available to the everyday merchant.'
FinTech is also very attractive to smaller merchants, because of its cross-functionality capabilities. ‘For example, integration with accounting and customer loyalty functions is becoming very accessible now and therefore increasingly popular. You can have MYOB or Xero (online accounting) and Deputy or Tanda (staff management and rostering) and the CommBank Albert device operating together as one integrated all-in-one solution.'
However, these opportunities don’t come without challenges. One of the biggest hurdles in this space is educating the market:
‘Other services have paved the way for cloud-based and online services, so many merchants do feel very comfortable using the technology, thanks to consumer-facing services like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. However, there is still some awareness to be created, by informing people that the technology and the capabilities exist. We are overcoming this by working with strategic partners like CommBank to broaden our reach and to talk to as many businesses as possible about the potential of the technology.'
In a wider sense, Australian FinTech businesses also have to contend with stringent regulations that on one hand can hamper innovation. However, this also means that the products, features and systems are also highly tested, which is actually a positive, because especially in an area like payments you want solutions that work seamlessly and securely.
Where is the technology heading?
In the retail and hospitality sector, Cloete feels that the future is online and the future of online is mobile: ‘Eventually we’ll see credit cards disappearing. This will lead to quicker, more cost-effective and more painless transactions and payments.’
He contends that these capabilities will culminate to create a richer, more fulfilling interaction between merchants and customers, both offline and online.