Nightingale backs banking aspirant

George Lekakis Business lending

Two of Australia’s leading digital disruptors are preparing to launch a new online bank aimed at the small business market.

Colin Porter and Dale Hurley, the founders of CreditorWatch - a startup credit information bureau - are the key people behind the new banking business that has registered business names for “Go” and “GoBlank”.

Banking Day understands that private equity group Nightingale Partners – a key investor in CreditorWatch before it was sold in 2017 – has stumped up seed capital for the banking venture.

Last August, Nightingale chairman Lindsay Phillips and investment director Daniel Barrins registered a corporate vehicle for the Go business but resigned their directorships after a permanent six-member board was appointed in November.

Porter and Hurley serve as executive directors of the holding company, which is chaired by Nightingale board member, Stephen Rix.

Other directors include Warren Lee, the former chief executive of the Victorian Funds Management Corporation, and Colin Morgan, the former boss of Zurich’s Asia Pacific life insurance arm.

Banking Day contacted several board members on Tuesday who each declined to comment on timeframes for product roll outs and whether the company had already applied for a banking licence.

The company has a website under construction (www.goblank.com.au) but the use of the word “blank” in its corporate signage might only be temporary given that the business is not yet authorised by APRA to operate as a bank in Australia.

However, the Go website is loud and up front about its strategic intentions.

“We’re building a bank,” the company announces at the top of its home page.

“Go's objective is to create an independent, innovative and niche Australian bank, providing a limited suite of products to small and medium businesses.”

The banking aspirant’s head office is located in the heart of Sydney’s financial precinct in Martin Place.

Go appears to be at a very early stage of its development, with ASIC records indicating the company has not yet obtained a financial services licence.

An AFSL would clear the way for the firm to begin marketing credit products to SMEs and boost its credentials for attracting capital from investors.

ASIC records show that the holding company (Go Hold Ltd) currently has paid up capital of A$1.1 million.

The strategic push by Porter and Hurley into the SME banking market is an attempt to leverage the information gathering and credit referencing expertise they demonstrated in the CreditorWatch business.

CreditorWatch, now owned by InfoTrack, developed a data platform that helps clients to gauge the financial health of SMEs.

It took Porter and Hurley only seven years to build a subscriber base of more than 50,000 clients that disrupted the cosy duopoly of illion (formerly Dun&Bradstreet) and Equifax Australia in credit bureau market.

Go looms as the main startup threat to another banking aspirant -Judo Capital- in the digital SME banking market.

Melbourne-based Judo is poised to rebrand itself as a bank after applying for a full banking licence more than 12 months ago.

Judo’s SME-focused business model has won broad support from institutional and professional investors who poured more than $150 million of equity capital into the company last year.

The company is believed to be planning another capital raising before the end of May that is expected to haul in more than $200 million.