Blog Interviews

Andre Kravchenko and Andrew Clouston Explore Lending Trends and Challenges in Australia and New Zealand

Andre Kravchenko and Andrew Clouston Explore Lending Trends and Challenges in Australia and New Zealand

In early June, Andre Kravchenko, Senior VP of Business Development at HES FinTech, and Andrew Clouston, Market Advisor for Australia and New Zealand, embarked on a pivotal journey through Melbourne and Sydney. Their mission: to engage with banks and alternative lenders, discussing the evolving landscape of the lending industry. This interview is a natural extension of those insightful meetings and conversations, delving deeper into the present and future of lending in the region. As they reflect on their experiences and share their visions, we gain a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing the Australian and New Zealand lending markets.

Here, Andre Kravchenko takes the helm, asking the questions that matter to industry professionals and innovators alike.

Andrew, could you share your journey in the financial services industry and what led you to specialize in the lending sector? 

After starting as a mortgage broker in the mid-90s, the very early stages of the Australian broking industry, I saw an opportunity to start my own broking business. While this did very well and achieved a nice exit, there was a common theme that never sat well with me: the process was always painful for customers. There are many reasons for that pain, but predominantly, the industry has always had an unhealthy reliance on documents and has been slow to adapt to new, more reliable data sources as they come online, e.g., open banking. I have been looking at ways to improve that experience for customers for almost two decades, and the journey continues.

What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities you see in the Australian and New Zealand lending markets? 

While there will always be changes to regulations, risk appetites, market demand, pricing, etc., the one challenge that remains consistent is the false comfort that decision-makers feel in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t touch it” culture that prevails across the local industry. Observations across many industries suggest that if you aren’t prepared to disrupt yourself, someone else will. While that is the challenge, the opportunity is to provide solutions that allow new tech adoption journeys to be less complex and lower cost.

How do you envision technology transforming the lending landscape in these regions over the next few years? 

There are numerous lending businesses in these markets that have yet to adopt technology that has been available for many years. While staring them in the face is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity via the AI revolution. Many businesses will choose to step their way through the catch-up and eventually find their way to the AI mountaintop, missing endless opportunities along the way. They need to cut the cord, look for solutions that are already AI-ready, and take the leap.

Could you discuss any past projects or roles that you believe have prepared you for your new role at HES FinTech? 

My journey at Volt Bank, as disappointing as it ended, was a great rounding out of my experience in the lending tech journey. Previously, I had been a founder of a tech business, constantly frustrated with the decision-making process, or lack thereof, at banks. Then, all of a sudden, I was a decision-maker at a bank making multiple tech buying decisions every month, not all of them good. That experience on both sides of the decision-making process is something very few people get; it provides perspective.

What are your key priorities as HES FinTech’s market advisor for Australia and New Zealand? 

As a new supplier in the Aus market, it will be important to leverage HES’s success in the 30+ markets it successfully operates in to build awareness of HES’s capability. One of the most important factors for Aussie buyers when selecting non-Australian tech is access to a local presence. It’s my role to provide that presence and support, enabling access to the global expertise that HES offers.

Andre Kravchenko and Andrew Clouston

How do you plan to leverage your experience to enhance HES FinTech’s offerings in these markets? 

Although the principles of lending are consistent worldwide, each country has its own nuances, whether that be centred around customer needs or regulatory requirements. Having lived both for the last 20+ years I hope to keep HES’s localised capabilities present and market ready.

What trends in fintech do you think are most critical for industry professionals to watch right now? 

Obviously, the hot topic at the moment, and for the foreseeable future, is AI. My discovery of HES as a leader in the application of AI for the lending industry was what led me to reach out for our first discussion.

Could you share an example of a significant challenge you’ve overcome in your career and the lessons learned? 

Just like all entrepreneurs, at some stage, your gut tells you that the tech and/or people you have chosen are not the right fit for your path to success. When caught in that situation, decisiveness is key: take the pain and make the change.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in fintech, particularly in lending technologies? 

Customers hate a long maybe. Focus your processes on consistent decisiveness; there is nothing wrong with saying no.

In our many conversations, there is one consistent theme when it comes to building a relationship between a technology partner and a financial institution – trust. Can you speak what role trust played in your relationships with clients, on both sides – as a technology provider and as a technology acquirer? 

Trust is important to all relationships, and the key factors apply across business in the same way they do across personal relationships. You can’t buy it, expect it, or manufacture it; it’s a constant investment of your time to prove you can be relied upon and deliver what you promise. After that, in the inevitable event that things go wrong, own up and take responsibility. It’s not that hard, really.

Finally, what are your aspirations for HES FinTech in the region in the coming years? 

HES FinTech has the opportunity to lead Australian and New Zealand lenders in adopting AI as a key tool in the delivery of data-informed loan origination and risk management. The hope is that local business leaders can find the courage to take that leap and make the most of the opportunity that HES presents.

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