Community culture driving fintech success
When it comes to competing in the global Fintech industry, Wellington really punches above its weight. The capital has a proud history of ambitious, home-grown fintech companies, from billion-dollar businesses like Xero and FNZ to fast growing smaller companies like Hnry and Sharesies. So what is it about the city that’s helping create these incredible companies which are flying the Kiwi flag in markets around the world? Kea spoke to three founders to find out.
Fast-growing Wellington based software firm Hnry, helps self-employed people manage their accounts. The company’s catchphrase – ‘Never think about tax again’ has resonated with its customers and the business has seen incredible growth in New Zealand and Australia.
Launched in 2017, Hnry is the brain-child of co-founders James and Claire Fuller. The couple initially moved back to Wellington from London as that was where Claire’s family were based. Claire says they had no long term plans to remain in the capital, but found themselves falling in love with the city all over again and quickly realised it was the perfect place to start their business.
“The start-up community in Wellington is phenomenally supportive, everyone seems to know someone who might be able to help. Connections are made, and time and advice are given, for no other reason than people want to help you succeed. I can’t imagine that occurring on such a vast scale in any other city in the world.”
That’s a sentiment shared by investment company Sharesies whose Co-founder Brooke Roberts says Wellington is full of experienced people who are keen to give back to those starting out.
There is a real community full of purpose driven, connected people from well established companies like Xero and Trade Me who really want to share their knowledge. Being connected to these people has helped us to build an incredible team. There’s just this great energy in the city which is always growing.”
Sharesies launched five years ago with the goal of making investing as easy and accessible as possible, and today it has more than 600,000 investors across New Zealand and Australia, with
more than 10% of the New Zealand population having an account. During the company’s Australia launch Brooke says she did move to Sydney for a while to get things off the ground but the company’s home will always be Wellington.
“Ultimately we have a great team in place in Australia and I have been able to return home. I’ve got young kids and one of the best things about being Wellington based is the lifestyle the city offers you, I’m never more than 15 minutes away from them.”
The Wellington lifestyle is something which global company Montoux sees as a bonus. Chief Product Officer and Founder Klaas Stijnen says they have found the liveability of the city a unique selling point when it comes to attracting staff.
“Because we are looking for quite a few people in highly specialised areas, we hire from both New Zealand and offshore. People see Wellington as a really great city to live and work in, which ultimately is really beneficial to us.”
Montoux develops technology to help insurers optimise actuarial workflows, and while the business has offices all around the world, Klaas Stijnen says the company has never had any doubts about Wellington being one of its key hubs.
“Our Montoux offices share the same building as a few other fintech businesses, it’s just great to feel so connected, to have access to a lot of minds and feel like you are not alone. We are all fighting the same fight, even if it’s in slightly different areas with slightly different problems, we can all help each other.”
Sharesies Co-founder Brooke says another bonus to being headquartered in the capital is the proximity to regulators, something which was key during their start-up period.
“We were launching a business which operates in a highly regulated environment, so making sure we could build relationships with the right people and really understand those regulations was really important.”
Despite all three companies expanding into offshore markets none of them see their home city’s location as a disadvantage, in fact Claire says when Hnry decided to expand into Australia they originally thought they might need to relocate, however Covid threw a spanner in the works.
“As a result of the pandemic we were forced to change our approach to launching in Australia. We had no option but to manage everything from Wellington and over the past two years we have been able to remotely recruit a phenomenal team in Sydney to take over the day to day running of the Australian operation. This has taught us, and our investors that we don’t need to relocate in order for international expansion to be successful, and we can remain living in the city we love”
This content was produced in partnership with Wellington NZ who have teamed up with local businesses in a campaign to attract skilled people to Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara, as a destination to come work, live, and play. To see more from the campaign and hear stories of how other businesses embraced the ‘Wellington effect’ visit Only in Wellington.”