CBA's start-up venture X15 partners with KPMG and Microsoft

19 March 2020 3 min. read
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Commonwealth Bank (CBA), one of Australia’s major banks, is looking to tap into the burgeoning financial technology (FinTech) market across the country through the launch of a FinTech startup incubator X15 Ventures. Growth and technical expertise for the new venture is being sourced from KPMG and Microsoft.

X15 Ventures is an ambitious project, aiming to get five FinTech businesses up and running over the course of this year alone, and 25 businesses operational over the next five years. CBA has an existing yearly technology investment fund worth $1 billion, part of which will fund X15 ventures. The exact amount allocated to the fund has not been disclosed.

The new incubator has hit the ground running, having already snapped up two startups to participate. The first, Home-In, is an online service designed to simplify residential real estate transactions. The second is a free of cost application that generates analytical business insights for businesses in Australia.

As these firms look to the next phase of growth under X15’s umbrella, Microsoft will support the participating firms with tech development, while financial expertise will come from Big Four accounting and advisory firm KPMG.

CBA's start-up venture X15 partners with KPMG and Microsoft

The move comes amid a rapidly expanding FinTech market across Australia. Major banks in the country are struggling with a variety of market factors, and are being threatened by the emergence of FinTech players, in particular in the retail banking and investment segments. The heavy legacy systems of the major banks are a major bottleneck to their ambitions in building an agile and flexible operation

CBA’s move to externalise part of its innovation via X15 ventures reflects a popular trend among major banks, with National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac both recently also turning to the startup environment. The former is supporting an accelerator programme, while the latter has been identifying promising startups in the regulation technology (RegTech) space through a challenge set up in 2018.

Toby Norton-Smith of CBA has been appointed Managing Director of X15 Ventures. Norton-Smith has been at Commonwealth Bank for more than five years, and has previously been the bank’s Head of Partnerships and FinTech as well as General Manager for Innovation & Ventures.

“X15 allows us to open the door and partner more easily with entrepreneurs than ever before. Under its umbrella, we will create an environment for new businesses to flourish, we’ll empower Australia’s innovators and bring new solutions to market designed to empower customers as never before. Businesses will be nurtured and developed as start-ups but will have the scale and reach of CBA behind them to achieve rapid growth,” said Norton-Smith.

Commenting on the partnership with X15 Ventures, Amanda Price, Head of High Growth Ventures at KPMG, said, “We look forward to working with X15 Ventures to build the ecosystem of support these new ventures need. From founder programs designed to unlock sustained high performance to business and strategy solutions for high-growth ventures, there will be a wealth of smart tools at their disposal to help them overcome the challenge of scaling at speed.”