Westpac CEO sees key role for startup partnerships

Westpac group CEO Brian Hartzer likes to describe his company as the “original 200-year-old startup” — with the capacity to innovate embedded “deep in the DNA of the Westpac group”.

The company will celebrate its 200th birthday this Saturday, making it Australia’s oldest company and the first company in Australia’s history to enter its third century of business, the CEO yesterday told the Amazon Web Service Summit in Sydney.

Hartzer said that key to the bank’s survival has been its ability to adapt. In 1817, that meant issuing Australia’s first bank note (as the Bank of New South Wales).

In 2017, it means partnering with a range of startup businesses, seeking to combine their agility and creativity with Westpac’s resources, customer base, experience and risk management skills, Hartzer said.

“That’s why we invested $100 million in setting up Reinventure, which is a venture capital firm that invests in disruptive startup companies like Coinbase, like Data Republic, like Hey You,” the CEO said. “And it’s also why we’re now partnering directly with other fintech companies.”

For example, the bank has established a partnership with fintech PromisePay, he said. PromisePay — which last year rebranded to Assembly Payments — has built a payment platform for online marketplaces.

“We will start by supporting them with what they’re currently doing but soon will embed that in our offering to our own customers,” Hartzer said.

“And for a company like PromisePay that’s pretty exciting because when you work with Westpac you have direct access to over 50 per cent of Australian businesses — so terrific for them, terrific for us.”

A fortnight ago the bank launched ‘Westpac Keyboard’, which integrates the ability to make payments, send passcodes for cardless ATM cash withdrawals and send bank account details from within mobile messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

“It’s a first in Australia,” Hartzer said. “We’re one of the first banks in the world to offer this, and it’s a great example of the next stage of adapting for us. Because we’ve done this in partnership with a small Israeli startup called PayKey. And this is a really important step because we’ve realised that we can’t meet the new demands on our own we can’t do all this alone.”

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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