The future of fintech is bright, and it’s all thanks to the thinkers, starters and creators in who have made it happen. To start off our Finspirational People series, we talked to the head of Fintech Victoria and all-round finspirational guy, Alan Tsen about blockchain, startups and getting out of bed in the morning.

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To start things off, please could you give us a brief overview of who you are and what you do?

My name is Alan Tsen and I’m the CEO of Fintech Victoria.

Fintech Victoria aims to further build the Victorian Fintech ecosystem. Specifically, we’re here to amplify, grow and connect the Victorian fintech community.

What motivated you to start FinTech Victoria, and have you seen any positive effects on the Victorian FinTech community as a result?

Fintech Victoria was born from the initial work done by the Fintech Melbourne meetup group - which I helped to scale to the 2,400+ members it has today. The vibrant grassroots community that came from that showed that there was a real appetite for something bigger and more organised than just a meetup group.

"there was a real appetite for something bigger and more organised than just a meetup group."

From these humble beginnings we’ve grown into an organisation able to partner with the Victorian Government and other major financial services companies to continue to build a more connected fintech ecosystem right here in Victoria.

We’ve seen some amazing growth in the ecosystem through a number of targeted initiatives designed to amplify, grow and connect the Victorian fintech community. Our events consistently draw 150+ fintech enthusiasts and we’ve already had some amazing speakers - with more to come! We’ve also been working very closely with a variety of government departments to get a number of Victorian startups across to the biggest blockchain conference in the world - Consensus 2017.

Beyond this, we’ve been very focused on working with financial institutions and startups to help improve the current state of corporate partnering - we’ve got more to announce on this front soon!

Are there any particular moments which have stood out for you from the FinTech Victoria meetups?

I particularly enjoyed our collaboration with the UK DIT on a recent trade mission. We helped host an event with 11 UK-based fintech startups. At that meet up we discussed the opportunities that are available to Aussie startups in the UK market.

The event was also a great way for local startups to hear from their UK counterparts. I also enjoyed seeing some of the partnering conversations that occurred at that event - I’m hopeful that some really interesting opportunities might have been born that night.

What’s your 1-sentence layman’s explanation of what bitcoin is and/or how it works?

Bitcoin is digitally native cash and works on a peer-to-peer basis.

You’re clearly a blockchain enthusiast, what excites you most about the world of blockchain? What do you think are the biggest challenges for blockchain in Australia?

I’d start by saying that blockchain tech is still at a very nascent stage in it’s development cycle. For it to be deployed at scale in production there are a number of issues that still need to be resolved.

Having said this, the future is very bright for blockchain tech. The ability to decentralise and automate business processes provides great opportunities for new and exciting business models. We’re already starting to see some interesting projects using a blockchain to provide services in a decentralised way. For example, see Storj and IPFS for decentralised data storage.

Currently, the biggest challenge for the industry in Australia is the lack of regulatory clarity and inability for some industry participants to maintain banking relationships. Having said this, we’re starting to see some really promising changes in Australia on the regulatory front. One that I’ve personally been involved with has been the amendments to the Goods and Services Tax Act to remove ‘double GST’ on digital currency. This change will make Australia only the second country to make amendments to their taxation law to accommodate digital currency.

What does the future hold for fintech in Victoria?

I think the future for fintech in Victoria is incredibly bright. We have two of the four big Aussie bank headquartered in Victoria, many of the biggest Australia industry superannuation funds and most importantly a very vibrant fintech community.

Something that I think is sometimes overlooked is the number of amazing startups being built right here in Victoria. Companies like Airwallex, Assembly Payments, Moula, MoneyPlace and Timelio, to name a few, have raised significant rounds of capital and are headquartered right here in Victoria. It’s these companies that are the foundation of our ecosystem. Their teams will be the next generation of mentors, angel investors and success stories that people can point to when talking about the Victorian fintech ecosystem. This is incredibly important in getting the proverbial ’flywheel’ going.

Beyond this, Fintech Victoria is working hard with a number of passionate partners on further building out the ecosystem. We hope this will also provide a strong foundation for further growing the ecosystem.

What gets Alan Tsen out of bed in the morning?

I’m passionate about doing my bit to help further build the amazing Victorian fintech ecosystem. It’s amazingly inspiring to speak to founders everyday about the products their building and hearing what the future of finance looks like.