From MacBank to EziBank lotto

Ian Rogers Financial institutions / Big five & fintech
A syndicate of 20 investors is taking a red hot run at winning the neobank war in Australia.
A syndicate of 20 investors is taking a red hot run at winning the neobank war in Australia.

Former Macquarie and Suncorp banker Tim Brown is leading a push by Sydney-based fintech Lakeba Corporation to secure an ADI licence from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

There must be 50 or 60 fintech dreamers ahead of them in the queue and APRA shows scant signs of being hurried.

Even with the most critical ADI applications in the pipeline, APRA displays a reluctance to conclude decisions. Firstmac surely is due for a green light.

Next week’s final of two special meetings of members of the mutual MCU Limited cannot proceed without this. Maybe news is imminent.

So convincing points of differentiation can only help EziBank wrestle its way toward the front of the queue. For now Brown has something to work with, private capital rallied for a red hut run at success and a 100-bagger; someone has to in neo-bank land.

Banking Day understands that Brown has assembled a senior executive team for a new digital bank that proposes to trade under the EziBank moniker.

Lakeba has been pitching the idea to investors since the start of the year.

So far around twenty investors have taken equity in the business, including high profile mining millionaire Todd Hannigan and Sydney building developer, Raymond Younan.

The management team has developed a business model for the venture that includes a strategic partnership with global digital banking platform provider, Temenos, a common choice among fintechs.

To some degree Temenos is the only choice for EziBank.

The reason - rarely reported, but a definite brake on the plans of any fintech banking aspirant - is that fintech-focused banking platforms are verboten in the eyes of the prudential regulator.

Nothing new, nothing refined to serve an exploding worldwide market, that was the rule. Is it reforming?

APRA needs bulldozing into looking into applications for new banking licences in Australia with the depth and sincerity that they deserve. Assessments are not being progressed by APRA whenever a neo-bank sets out their plans dependent on a core banking system already lauded and in use in foreign markets - but banned in Australia.  

Send in your favourites, we don’t know them all. Nifty and novel and innovative and disruptive, there’s a motherload of get-rich-quick and even disruptive, seductive offers for not-yet banks to ponder.

Aussie fintech rolls on, Temenos floating many boats.

Brown is believed to be preparing a licence application that will be good to go to APRA in the next few months.

Lakeba has been working on the business case since the middle of last year when Brown was appointed CEO of its EZI Financial Services subsidiary.

In November Lakeba registered www.ezibank.com.au with the Australian domain registry, auDA.

The company yesterday declined to respond to enquiries from Banking Day, but a respected banking industry figure said EziBank’s management had been spruiking its business case to professional investors in Australia since the start of the year.

The industry source said Brown had recruited another former Macquarie banker, Ben Newling, as chief operating officer for the proposed EziBank operation.

Newling, who most recently held down the post of company secretary for ASX-listed payments company Incentia Pay, has deep experience in the home loan market.

Previously he held senior roles at Macquarie Bank and Rubik Group in mortgage administration and origination.

EziBank is also expected to join former Commonwealth Bank talent to its executive ranks.

Mike Hade, who has held senior roles in CBA’s securitisation operation has been earmarked as chief risk officer for the new business.

Former CBA systems architect Gopal Hariharan has been linked to the chief information officer role.

Lakeba was founded by Italian entrepreneur Giuseppe Porcelli in 2013 and is probably best known for its Paid By Coins payment gateway that allows consumers to use cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum to pay bills via BPay.

The service allows customers to make individual payments of up to A$50,000 to any Australian bank account. This makes this fintech Flash Harry one likely to navigate the NPP shoals wisely, unlike dozens of rivals.

So Brown screens a showreel and relies on a management bench that differentiates.

Not one neobank has launched in Australia, not really; EziBank have that on their side.

Xinja, like Volt, is still querying tyre-kickers. Is our app meant to make you the richest person in the underworld, or are we no more than here to help you than to guarantee you can afford groceries next week?

And no, we haven’t followed up any of your many requests to supply you with our debit card. And nick off, we refuse to be contacted, by the Graham Bell method, after 5pm eastern.

Up, from Bendigo, is the only go-getter banking brand getting global PR out of Australia. Up are all over LinkedIn, and according to them the Up app is now fourth with a bullet in the Apple Store.?

Deft work is needed if EziBank is win a licence in 2020.  Make that 2021.

APRA could be inundated with licence applications this year after startup Volt Bank secured a full banking licence in January.

The regulator is continuing to mull over applications from startup business lender Judo Capital and the Cuscal-backed 86 400 venture.