From how to get IPO-ready to the legal matters to consider when thinking about capital raising, KPMG Enterprise's startup experts share their advice for founders.
At High Growth Ventures, KPMG’s dedicated startup team, we have the privilege of meeting with Australian startups every day.
These startups are created to address and resolve a problem or optimise a system for their target market, and the Australian startup ecosystem has extraordinary depth and diversity. But another pattern is clear: no matter how strong the startup’s potential, the founder is often time-poor and solely product-focused, meaning they simply don’t have the time to consider how best to navigate Australia’s complex legal and regulatory framework.
As a startup gains market traction or receives significant Series A investment, and the wheels of growth really start to spin, that startup’s journey can then be hindered – or even cut short – by a half-baked legal structure or the absence of a coherent regulatory strategy.
This risk is particularly pronounced in highly-regulated sectors, like fintech, where innovative new entrants are challenging established financial services players in a convoluted and volatile regulatory environment. In these circumstances, it can be difficult for an emerging fintech to strike the right balance between innovation, competition, and regulatory proficiency.
In one recent example of what can happen when things go wrong, the millennial superannuation fund, Spaceship (launched in 2017 after raising funds from Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes and other notable investors) was fined $12,600 by ASIC over misleading claims in its marketing.
To assist emerging fintechs with facing this challenge, we’ve set out three key tips below:
Fintech startups that intend to offer financial products or credit products to Australian clients need to consider their licensing requirements:
The Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth) (AML/CTF Act) imposes obligations on entities that provide ‘designated services’ with a geographic connection to Australia. As a fintech startup, you should review Table 1 (section 6, AML/CTF Act), which prescribes financial services activities that are designated services under the AML/CTF Act, to consider whether you might be required to register with AUSTRAC as a reporting entity. For more information on this, check out AUSTRAC’s Definitions and examples of common designated services. Importantly:
a. any fintech structured as a ‘managed investment scheme’, is likely to be providing a ‘designated service’ under the AML/CTF Act
b. if you’re a fintech that either issues above-the-threshold stored value cards (SVCs) and/or increases the value stored in connection with above-the-threshold SVCs, you’re likely to have reporting obligations under the AML/CTF Act
c. if you’re a digital currency buff, amendments to the AML/CTF Act came into force on 3 April 2018 that require digital currency exchange providers to register with AUSTRAC and comply with AML/CTF obligations.
As a fintech startup, it is important to understand that Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (Cth) (ASIC Act) contains a general prohibition on a business — in trade or commerce — engaging in conduct that is misleading or likely to mislead (s12DA of the ASIC Act), as well as a series of prohibitions on specific forms of misleading conduct. Innocent misstatements, negligent misrepresentation, and deliberate deceit may all contravene the prohibition. A range of enforcement and redress powers are available to ASIC in response to an infringement of the prohibition on misleading or deceptive conduct, including: redress for non-parties and non-punitive orders, damages, substantiation notices, injunctions, public warning notices, undertakings, and compensatory orders. Before you issue anything to the public, make sure you comb over it with a critical eye!
These are just some of the tips you should observe if you’re an up-and-coming fintech in the Australian market. It’s important to recognise that they are not exhaustive, nor are they a substitute for legal advice.
If you’re uncertain about any of the above or need some advice on how to get your startup off the ground reach out to me or one of my colleagues in the KPMG Enterprise High Growth Ventures team. If we can’t answer your question, we’ll put you in touch with someone who can.