Meet Karina Kwan, experienced bank executive, passionate mentor to the FinTech sector, and newly appointed Board member at Newcastle Permanent Building Society.

Karina Kwan, a Split Payments Advisory Board member, was recently appointed to the Board of Newcastle Permanent Building Society as a non-executive Director, which is testament to her incredible career over the past 30 years. As a mutual building society, Newcastle Permanent puts their customers and communities first, which is something Split Payments admire greatly.

In recent times, Karina has taken on a mentoring role with several FinTechs – including Split Payments – and is also an Adjunct Professor with the University of Sydney, and a non executive director of other Financial Services companies. When the team wrote to congratulate Karina, we took the opportunity to ask her some questions around her work and key trends in the banking industry over the coming years.


What makes you so passionate about emerging FinTech businesses and the changing financial services landscape?

“I get excited whenever I see a FinTech’s product that could solve a key problem that I experienced during my career”

I’ve spent over 30 years working in large banks as either a Treasurer, Financial Controller or a CFO. Part of my job involved being the Chair of a new product approval committee for 10 years. During this time, I witnessed the frustration and opportunity cost of large Financial Services organisations struggling to adapt to meet regulatory requirements and their inability to innovate quickly to meet changing consumer and client needs. This is largely due to multi management layers, complex processes, and “system spaghetti”.

“System spaghetti” is my term for the state of technology infrastructure of most large Financial Services organisations, who accumulate a multitude of systems over decades of growth. These systems don’t connect well, require bespoke bridging solutions, and a significant cost to support. Management spend a significant amount of time navigating the layers, processes and spaghetti, such that there is little ability to innovate and respond with agility to a changing environment.

The world is changing. Fast. These large Financial Services organisations have tried to innovate but this tends to be in specific pockets and very few have succeeded at scale. FinTechs, on the other hand, tend to be small, write and own their own source code, and can respond quickly. The larger organisations over the past few years have belatedly woken up to the fact that partnerships with FinTechs provide their solution to agility and innovation, rather than organically building the same from scratch.

I get excited whenever I see a FinTech’s product that could solve a key problem that I experienced during my career, especially when the solution is a win-win for the FinTech, the Financial Services organisation and individual consumers. This is what attracts me to working with FinTechs. I’ve worked in the world that they are trying to sell into. I can see the pain points and help them and advise them.

What do you think are the key trends that will impact the banking industry over the coming years?

“In order for banks to succeed in this increasingly competitive landscape, they will need to provide services that address their customers individual needs”

Open Banking, the Comprehensive Credit Bureau (CCB), increased product innovation, and the fully digital consumer will increase competition in banking significantly. Some key trends include:

  • Following the 2018-19 Banking Royal Commission, there will be an increase in regulation and more scrutiny by regulators.
  • The competitive landscape will change as a result of the Consumer Data Right and Open Banking, once this goes live. Consumers will have the ability to manage their own data and switch banks and products unlike ever before. In this world, banks that haven’t attempted to address customer points of friction will find themselves losing market share to those that have.
  • Payments services are no longer the sole purview of banks as it historically was. Credit card usage is diminishing as Gen Z and Milennials steer away from debt in favour of Buy Now Pay Later solutions and the independence it allows from parental oversight.
  • As a result of COVID-19 social distancing, many banking customers have become more digital. Those banks that haven’t invested in technology sufficiently to provide a digital end-to-end onboarding experience will find their weaknesses exposed.
  • With Open Banking, mortgage approvals within 1 hour will become possible, such that bidders at home auctions have certainty of funding.
  • The mandatory contribution of data to the Comprehensive Credit Bureau means that poor credit behaviour will no longer be limited from bank to bank, which means there will be a spate of bankruptcies in the first 6-9 months after CCB goes live. But the upside is that banks will be able to offer tailored interest rate offerings to consumers based on their full credit history, unlike now where only interest rates per product offering are a one-size fits all due to the fact that only partial credit history is available. This would be a positive development for the good credit consumers.

This new world will start opening over the next financial year – COVID-19 restrictions allowing – driven by the ACCC’s agenda to promote competition. In order for banks to succeed in this higher competitive landscape, they will need to provide services that address their customers’ individual needs (rather than pushing a bank’s product menu), reliably, frictionlessly, quickly, and treating them with respect, as customers progress throughout their life stages.

Tell us more about your role with Split Payments?

“Split has a unique payments service offering which is win-win and economic-cycle-proof”

I am a member of the Advisory Board of Split Payments. My contribution is by way of providing advice to the executive management on risk management, corporate governance and business strategy. I also perform specific consulting work as required. I leverage my banking experience to advise on how best to prepare for engagement with large Financial Services organisations.

I was delighted to be asked to work with the Split management team. It took me about 30 minutes into our introductory meeting to realise the significance of Split’s product offering. Split has a unique payments service offering which is win-win and economic-cycle-proof. Split’s offering not only lowers costs and lowers risk for corporate clients as well as their customers, it also delights customers by eliminating a big point of aggravation – direct debit dishonour fees.

I am also impressed at the values espoused by Split’s management team, which includes placing client trust ahead of everything else, and the diligence processes in ensuring a customised service offering is true to label. As such, I think Split is well positioned to service its corporate clients in a new world of increased competition.

Connect with Karina on LinkedIn.

Split Payments is the World’s First Open Banking Real-Time Payments Platform.