The head of a trail-blazing energy financing startup – which last month secured $18.5 million in additional funding – has been named Australia’s outstanding FinTech leader of the year.
Katherine McConnell, the founder and CEO of Brighte, received the honour at FinTech Australia’s Finnie awards. Presented by Jobs for NSW, the Finnies are Australia’s only industry-backed FinTech awards and are in their second year.
The award given to Katherine McConnell was one of 23 handed out at a gala ceremony in Sydney. The awards were decided by 81 domestic and international judges.
The Finnies celebrate the remarkable achievements of Australia’s best FinTech businesses who are recognised for excellence in sectors such as lending, wealth management, payments, crowdfunding, blockchain, artificial intelligence and regtech.
A new award category has also been introduced in this year’s awards for the best fintech customer experience/design outcome.
In addition to McConnell’s award, the awards night saw a number of exciting FinTech organisations and leaders recognised for their achievements, including:
- Civic-focused blockchain company Civic Ledger (Emerging FinTech Organisation of the Year)
- Retail FinTech Afterpay (FinTech Organisation of the Year)
- Airwallex co-founder and chief operating officer Lucy Liu (Female FinTech Leader of the Year)
- Afterpay CEO and co-founder Nick Molnar (Emerging FinTech Leader of the Year)
What is the story behind Brighte?
Katherine McConnell founded Brighte in 2015, after a 16-year career in investment banking and financial services (including at the Macquarie Bank).
Her company provides on-the-spot finance for energy home improvements, such as solar panels, insulation and batteries. Applications take two minutes for customers to complete, with a credit outcome received in nine seconds.
Since it launched 18 months ago, the startup has approved over $50 million of applications from more than 6,000 Australian homeowners.
One judge said of Ms McConnell: “Katherine is an inspirational female FinTech founder and has demonstrated her excellent leadership skills and vision to drive the business growth of Brighte”.
FinTech Australia CEO Brad Kitschke congratulated Ms McConnell and all the other winners of the 2018 Finnie awards. Kitschke said the winners reflected the maturity and growth of Australia’s FinTech industry.
“The winners of the 2018 Finnies are providing consumers and businesses new and improved services and a real alternative to the banks and other traditional financial institutions,” Kitschke said.
“The winners include smaller FinTech startup companies but now also include larger scale-up FinTechs which are dominant players in their sectors and are major employers in their own right.”
Kitschke said that the Finnie Awards recognise the high potential of growth in the Australian fintech industry which are already generating future economic returns and jobs.
“The fact we received 223 award entries – a 40 per cent increase from the 158 entries in 2017 – in itself illustrates the increasing number of strong companies and leaders within our growing Australian FinTech industry,” Kitschke said.
Kitschke also paid tribute to Simon Cant, the inaugural chair of FinTech Australia and co-founder and managing director of Reinventure, who received a Services to FinTech award.
“Simon has been an inspirational founding father of the Australian FinTech movement and tonight was a great opportunity to recognise him for his tireless work and contributions,” Kitschke said.
NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Small Business John Barilaro said he was thrilled to see 16 out of the 23 award winners were NSW based, including the fintech leader of the year and emerging fintech leader of the year.
“This is a tremendous result for our fintech sector with NSW picking up 55 out of 89 finalist positions and now nearly 70 per cent of the awards.
“We recognise the important and increasing role of fintech in driving innovation and future growth in our financial services sector.
“The NSW Government is investing heavily in startups which are creating jobs and industries for the future, including through initiatives like Jobs for NSW and the Sydney Startup Hub as well as our support for the Finnie Awards.”
The NSW investing $35 million in the Sydney Startup Hub which is home to leading fintech accelerator Stone & Chalk. Through Jobs for NSW we have supported about 30 fintechs to date investing over $800,000 in their growth including companies like Pennybox and FarmPay
Who else won at the 2018 Finnie Awards?
The full list of Finnie winners are below:
- FinTech Organisation of the Year – Afterpay
- Emerging FinTech Organisation of the Year – Civic Ledger
- Outstanding FinTech Leader of the Year – Katherine McConnell, Founder and CEO, Brighte
- Female FinTech Leader of the Year – Airwallex co-founder and chief operating officer Lucy Liu
- Emerging FinTech Leader of the Year – Afterpay CEO and co-founder Nick Molnar
- Excellence in Wealth Management – Pocketbook
- Excellence in Payments – Airwallex
- Excellence in Consumer Lending – RateSetter Australia
- Excellence in Regtech – Proviso
- Excellence in Blockchain/Distributed Ledger – AgriDigital
- Excellence in Business Lending – Trade Ledger
- Excellence in Data/AI Solutions – Data Republic
- Excellence in Insurtech – Cover Genius
- Excellence in Cyber Security – XM Cyber
- Excellence in Digital Currencies/Wallets/Exchanges – Finch
- Excellence in Crowdfunding – OnMarket
- Best Marketing/Branding Initiative of the Year – SocietyOne
- Excellence in Industry Collaboration & Partnerships – TravelbyBit
- Excellence in Establishing Market Presence: Global – Verrency
- Excellence in FinTech Support Services (Infrastructure and Investment) – Stone & Chalk
- Excellence in FinTech Support Services (Professional Services) – The Fold Legal
- Best Customer/User Experience – Look Who’s Charging
- Best Workplace Diversity – Valiant Finance
2018 Finnie Awards Night
- Presenting partner: Jobs for NSW
- Media partner: Business Insider
- Event partner: Yodlee
- Category sponsors: Seed Space Venture Capital, YBF Ventures, Blockchain Centre, Tank Stream Labs, Wordflow
- Policy partners: K&L Gates, Herbert Smith Freehills, King and Wood Mallesons, Allens Linklaters and Baker & McKenzie